ASK veteran manager Terry Brown if he’s thought of retiring in recent years and he quips: “Every time just before I got the sack!”
The gag is a sign that the popular boss is back to his usual wise-cracking self after a testing 12 months.
Brown won promotion for Margate via the Ryman Premier play-offs a year ago, but then-big-spending Gate struggled in National League South and Brown was sacked in December.
He took over at fellow Step 2 strugglers Basingstoke Town in late March but was unable to save them from the drop into the Southern League Premier.
But that is all in the past as the former Hayes, Aldershot and AFC Wimbledon boss looks forward to an exciting new challenge – managing a young, full-time Basingstoke side at Step 3 in the coming season.
So, while fellow ex-Dons boss and friend Dave Anderson has recently called it quits as a manager, promotion-winning expert Brown will plough on in the dugout.
“I’ve been very lucky that I’ve now got a project in which I’m able to build a side how I want to,” he said. “We are going full-time with kids and it’s massively exciting.
“I’ve come from the other end of the spectrum. I had a really good budget with senior pros at Margate, but I didn’t really enjoy that. This is going to be with young, hungry people who want to make a name for themselves and play in the League in the future.
“People talk about what’s gone wrong with our Under-21 system in this country and it’s that the players don’t play meaningful games. At Basingstoke, it’s an opportunity to work full-time with youngsters, give them full-time coaching and let then play in front of 500-600 people in games they have to win.”
Brown believes the Dragons’ model makes sense in Non-League.
“The key is to make the club financially sustainable,” he said. “The chairman (Rafi Razzak) has backed the club over the last ten years. He wants to move on in a year or two, leaving the club not owing a penny and financially sustainable.
“The only way to do that in Non-League – unless you draw Manchester United in the Cup – is by producing young players and selling them on.”
Brown, who turns 64 just before the new season kicks off, will work closely with academy boss Jason Bristow to bring through local players. Bristow was Brown’s predecessor as manager and will combine his academy duties with being first-team coach.
“Jason’s a legend at Basingstoke and we will be working closely together,” he said. “When you are older, you need to delegate and I’ve been a good delegator. My former assistant, Stuart Cash, used to do all my hard work!
“Jason has already brought through three players from the academy towards the end of last season and they are fantastic prospects.”
Brown will also use his extensive knowledge from scouting at U21 level to pick up raw diamonds released from Football League clubs that can be polished.
“I’ve watched a lot of U21 players over the last year and a lot of the players I liked are the ones being released,” he said. “Reading have released players, Crystal Palace have released players, Brentford have released everyone.
“We’ve got some really talented footballers and I’ve got three A Licence coaches to work with them. Whereas senior players can take a lot of information on board, the youngsters need coaching.”
Brown is a rookie where the Southern League is concerned and believes his young side, mixed with a few senior players, will need time to adapt.
“I know very little about the clubs, but I think it will be a similar standard to the Ryman,” he said. “I know how difficult it was to get out of the Ryman and the Southern certainly isn’t going to be easy.
“The fans know the boys will need a bit of time to bed in and I don’t expect to be top of the table in the early months. I expect us to improve as the year goes on.”
As for others copying the Basingstoke plan, Brown issues a word of caution.
“If we are successful, it doesn’t mean we are a role model,” he said. “It’s massively about recruitment and knowledge of players. The players are out there, but you have to know where to look.”