MANAGER Alan Brown and Sunderland AFC today parted company by mutual consent. The announcement that Sunderland were prepared to let him go and that Mr Brown wanted to move out of an unhappy situation came without warning.
A new contract for the manager who has twice taken over the reins of office when the club was run down to dangerous level in both playing and financial resources has been under consideration for some time. Club chairman, Mr Keith Collings, is on record as saying in March: “There is no doubt at all that he will be offered another lengthy contract. It’s the very least we can do.”
But after a series of discussions, in which Mr Brown did not conceal the fact that he thought it would be to mutual advantage if he moved on, the last few words on the subject were spoken this morning, when Mr Collings and vice-chairman, Mr Jack Ditchburn, accepted Mr Brown’s decision to make the break immediately.
The decision takes immediate effect and the handling of team and club affairs is now completely out of Mr Brown’s hands.
Sunderland first turned to Mr Brown on August 1, 1957, three months after the club had been shattered by the findings of a joint FA and Football League Commission which conducted an inquiry into the conduct of the club’s affairs. They had narrowly escaped relegation the previous season, finishing in 20th position, and both playing and financial resources were at a low ebb.
His first season was to end in the disaster of relegation for the first time in the club’s history and it took him three seasons to put together a side capable of challenging for promotion. There were to be two third-place near misses before he brought them back in the 1963-64 season with a side which included seven of his youth team products, along with experienced recruits in Charlie Hurley, George Herd, Johnny Crossan and George Mulhall.
Shortly before the start of the 1964-65 come-back to First Division football, he relinquished his appointment and took up the vacant manager’s post with Sheffield Wednesday. At that time, Sunderland had shown a record profit of £108,000 on the previous season and had received advance season ticket bookings of £125,000 – a record for a Football League club.
Average attendances for the promotion season were 41,257, but these have been falling ever since, with the exception of last season, when a modest increase raised them above the lowest post-war level of 15,767 the previous season.
On their return to the First Division, Sunderland operated for four months without a manager and then, following a brief term of office by Mr George Hardwick, the former Scottish international manager Mr Ian McColl took over for a three-year spell which failed to arrest a steady decline in the club’s fortunes.
When Mr Brown returned on February 9, 1968, Sunderland were again waging what appeared to be a losing battle against relegation and against a financial situation which in four years had deteriorated by nearly £400,000.
With strictly limited opportunity to build by spending, he steered them clear of relegation and gave them another two seasons of First Division football before they were relegated again in 1969-70.
Since 1963-64 Sunderland have received over £400,000 in transfer fees for players who were discovered and developed by Mr Brown and in the past two years, when the framework of a new promotion side has been taking shape, they have received £200,000 for the transfer of players without being able to make finance available for recruiting the necessary talent to complete the re-building job.
Mr Brown, who played for Huddersfield Town, Burnley and Notts County and was trainer-coach with Sheffield Wednesday and Burnley before accepting his first Roker appointment, had been a Sunderland supporter since his boyhood days.
He leaves with no hard feelings and will continue to be counted among those who wish Sunderland well.
The shock announcement of his departure comes in a six-day period which has brought a series of changes in the club’s administration. Last Thursday, Mr Dan Eaton left the club’s employment after being replaced as commercial manager by Mr Gordon Dimbleby. Just 24 hours later came the statement that long-serving directors Messrs Stanley Ritson and Jack Cooke had resigned from the board and that vacancies had been filled by the appointment of Messrs Maurice Bewick, Alan Martin and Fred Stewart.
What the Echo says
Mr Alan Brown’s decision to part company from Sunderland Football Club will be welcomed by his critics, of whom he has more than his fair share. But those with the interest of the club at heart will be sorry to see him go.
Twice he has come to Sunderland’s rescue, to face the task of reviving the club’s fortunes at a time when they were at a low ebb. If the team has failed to make much headway this season what must not be overlooked is that Mr Brown has had to rely upon the same talent which took Sunderland into fifth place least season. Nor can Mr Brown’s contribution to the club’s finances – in two years £200,000 has been received in transfer fees – be ignored. In that same period no money has been available to buy players.
Perhaps Sunderland has been guilty of undervaluing his services.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on November 1 1972.