Happy birthday, Ken Brown: Martin O’Neill, Terry Venables, Dave Watson and other Norwich City legends share their memories
Eastern Daily Press © 2004
In the second part of our series celebrating the 80th birthday of Ken Brown, we look at how the footballing world has paid tribute to a Norwich City great.
Leafing through the pages of the special birthday book Ken Brown’s wife, Elaine, has compiled for him, many words crop up time and again.
There is barely a page without a reference to his smile, his cheerful demeanour, his gentlemanly manner or his ability to make people feel good about themselves.
Moving words of gratitude sit alongside dressing-room anecdotes from footballers who played alongside him at West Ham or under him at Norwich City.
Many of them thank him for his influence on their careers, and for his guidance as they moved on to become managers themselves.
These edited extracts demonstrate his standing in the football world, and beyond, in the words of those who know him best.
You can leave your memories of Ken Brown by commenting at the bottom of this story, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and the best will be used in tomorrow’s paper.
Dave Watson, former Norwich City captain
I’ve got lots of good memories of times with you and want to say a big THANK YOU:
• For showing faith in buying me, and paying for 1st class train tickets for myself and my dad to travel to Norwich all expenses included –little did you know my dad liked a glass of champagne before his three-course meal, followed by a brandy and a King Edward cigar;
• For giving me the chance to show what I could do;
• For seeing leadership qualities in me, a young lad who had been a sheet metal worker a year before, and making me captain ahead of very senior players;
"Happy birthday. It’s always been a pleasure to meet you and of course watch you play at West Ham: an inspirational player for myself and I’m sure for many others. Keep well and happy."
• For pushing for me to be selected for England under 21s, which gave me the experience of captaining them to winning the European U21 Cup;
• For helping me get my 1st full cap v Brazil in the Maracana Stadium; when we won 2-0. When, before the kick-off, the great Bobby Robson asked how I was feeling, I said “a little bit nervous” and he replied “how do you think your dad and your manager will be feeling back home?”. That sent a shiver through my spine and I knew I couldn’t let you down – no one was going past me that day.
To say you played a big part in my life is an understatement. I hope I did you proud and you enjoyed seeing a young lad who you had the vision to invest in go on and do well for his manager.
Ruel Fox, former Norwich City player
From my first trial week when Louie Donawa brought me down at the tender age of 14 the first thing that comes to mind is the big smile and hug you gave me and you made me feel right at home.
When I was playing you always encouraged me to enjoy and express myself without any fear. You were a great father figure to me and I will be forever in debt to you.
Throughout my career I have been fortunate to play under some great managers. Out of all of them you are the only one that when I see you or talk about you I still refer to as gaffer. That’s how high I hold you in regard.
Martin O’Neill, former Norwich City player and current Republic of Ireland manager
They talk these days about man-management. Well that particular skill came quite naturally to Ken Brown.
Yes, he could raise his voice when necessary to have the desired effect, but he delivered his words in a calm, composed fashion. I still wish today I could have found that quality in myself!
I will always be grateful to Ken for having belief in me as a player, and for bringing out of me what I wasn’t sure was there in the first place.
Also for introducing me to some of the finest people I have ever known in my life. They still remain big friends even to this day.
Eighty years old – I bet you still look good!
Jan Bond, wife of John Bond
Once, the Norwich chairman gave Ken and John a pair of walkie-talkies. Well, one would sit in the stand while the other was pitch-side – all well and good so far...
Unfortunately they never found out how they actually worked.
Everyone would kill themselves laughing watching them shouting and waving their arms about to each other during the game.
Needless to say, this new-fangled technology didn’t last very long.
We all love you – don’t ever change.
David Cuffley, ex-Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News sports writer
Ken and I had one or two disagreements over things I had written, but he was one of the best City managers to deal with and what always came across was how highly he was regarded by other teams’ managers, players and supporters – quite a rarity in the very partisan world of football.
Happy 80th birthday, Ken.
Kevin Drinkell, former City player
Championship winners, great games beating Man United at Old Trafford (I scored the winner), Liverpool at Carrow Road (yes, I scored the winner), fantastic team-mates Williams, Bruce, Watson, Phelan, Woods etc all playing a wonderful entertaining brand of football. It couldn’t have been better.
Your man-management and sense of team has stuck with me always, and your encouragement during a dodgy start enabled me to turn things around and finish up with the golden boot and Supporters’ Player of the Year award.
They were great times in my life both professionally and personally.
Terry Venables, former England manager
When I think about the past I always go all the way back to Bonham Road and the incredible memories of all the people that lived in that area. All we were interested in was playing football in the street or over in the park.
People always say to me ‘why are you always smiling?’ and it’s because of the time with you and Dick Walker, chatting up the old ladies and having fun on our faces. From those days till now I always have fond memories.
From then till today we have always crossed each other’s paths. I think you’re a great guy and felt really happy that I could involve you with one of my finest memories, being at Euro 96. It was such a privilege for me.It was lovely to talk to Elaine and I hope your family and friends make a big fuss of you on your 80th birthday (your secret is safe with me). Happy birthday.
Chris Lakey, Archant Norfolk head of sport
We don’t have enough Ken Browns in football nowadays. Ken has left a mark on Norwich City Football Club which, quite rightly, will never be forgotten. He put yellow and green shirts on some of the finest footballers in the club’s history and no one will ever forget that. A charming man. Happy birthday, Ken.
Asa Hartford, former Norwich City player
I’ll be eternally grateful to you, Ken, for taking a chance on an experienced player such as myself because we had never even met before I joined Norwich City. You were a gentleman and when I think of you I see a smiling face.
You were very understanding of my situation as I had a young family growing up in Wilmslow, Cheshire, so you allowed me (fixtures permitting) to train on a Monday and Tuesday with either the sun bed king (Ron Atkinson) at Manchester United or with Joe Royle at Ice Station Zebra (otherwise known as Oldham Athletic).
Of course my happiest memory of my time with you at Norwich City has to be our magical day at Wembley when we beat Sunderland 1-0 in the Milk Cup Final in 1985.
Not many managers get a chance to say that they managed a cup-winning team at Wembley, so step forward Ken Brown. Congratulations Ken on reaching this wonderful milestone and I hope you have a fabulous day and as they say in Scotland “lang may yer lum reek”.
Joe Royle, former Norwich City player
In an era of rant and rave managers, you taught me that you can achieve all that you need and want... with a smile, a philosophy that I have always believed in. You are a football man through and through Ken, a man that is both loved and respected.
Kevin Keelan, former Norwich City goalkeeper
There are so many things that come to mind that I would like to thank you for!
You were a great coach who had the ability to motivate, and get the best out of the players. John [Bond] and you came to Norwich City at the right time for me. Not only did we get to two cup finals, but we also won the league championship!
You both helped to accelerate my career, and for that, I will be eternally grateful!
The best years of my career were shared with you and John. I wish that I could have been there to celebrate this special day with you!
Tina Moore, ex-wife of Bobby Moore
I knew Ken very well when I was married to Bobby Moore. We both loved him, he was a big cuddly teddy bear of a man, always kind, courteous, very much a gentleman with a huge sense of humour.
I wish him a very happy birthday – sure it will be a fabulous day.
Do you have special memories of meeting Ken Brown? Email email@example.com