Part-time work at Blackburn Rovers, Stockport loans and the inside story of James Brown
When it came time for James Brown to make a decision about his immediate future, it was relatively easy for the Blackburn Rovers defender.
The Irishman was enjoying his first pre-season in English football and was hoping to make a name for himself at Ewood Park. A patient wait finally brought a first taste of Championship action on the final day of the 2021/22 season in Birmingham City.
Brown was given a full debut by Tony Mowbray, and the excitement of a long-awaited opportunity was carried into a new era under Jon Dahl Tomasson. But football waits for no one and a training camp in Scotland saw the 24-year-old leave with an important call.
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“Jon walked in and nobody knew where they were standing,” Brown tells Lancs Live. “I played a couple of weeks pre-season and played in the Accrington game, I got a dead calf so I couldn’t go to the Scotland games.
“While we were up there we had an honest chat with Gregg Broughton and they said it was my option. They always wanted a right-back where Nyambe goes, so they said I could go to the game week after week or I could fight for my position.
“With the season I had last season, I wanted to make a name for myself and play football regularly in England. I think I made the right decision going on loan this season, especially after they signed Callum Brittain, from which I thought would play most of the games I personally needed to get out and play games regularly.
“I had a chat with Jon before I left and he thought going on loan was a good decision. I asked what I could improve and work on, he said play, get fit. He told me to work on my end product, that’s good and I’m doing it. Hopefully I can come back next preseason and show that I’ve developed.
Brown was by no means loaned out. The decision was entirely up to him, but when you hear his backstory it’s pretty obvious why he found the decision relatively easy.
12 months ago Brown played part-time for Drogheda United in Ireland. He balanced his active days with working at a gym, which could often result in early starts and long hours. Not that you’d hear him complain.
After six months of waiting in the starting blocks at Ewood Park, first-team football was a priority. Brown jumped at the chance to make a name for himself in English football.
As he described it, there is “a big bad world out there”. Playing football is a privilege he loves in League Two with well-supported Stockport County.
“It was crazy, a real roller coaster ride,” he explains, looking back on the last 12 months. The season ended in November in Ireland, I had to get really fit first. I’ve had some conversations with Mowbray and he didn’t want to change defense for that part of the season.
“That was understandable, I thought I could have had a few chances. I could have made my debut much earlier then I loved it at Birmingham and then we had pre-season and I’m on loan, football is a crazy game.
“I’m very thankful for where I am. This time last year I was working and playing football. I know how it’s in the real world, I’ve been doing early mornings and long shifts. I’ve been working in gyms and it feels that now look like this paradise i enjoy every minute, i love manchester and i enjoy life in the minute.
“I don’t know much else, when I made my debut I was part-time. I got up to work and got on with things. I came here and you see boys complaining about little things and I’m like in my head ‘come on, it’s a wicked world out there’. The main difference is recovery, you can take care of yourself a lot more. I’ll make the best of it.”
Finding the right club was crucial, especially at this stage in Brown’s career. It had to fit, with the right manager who would help develop a player with lots of enthusiasm and a drive to improve.
Stockport was the perfect club. After meeting Dave Chalinor and touring the facilities, Brown immediately felt this was the right place.
The location was also ideal. As is the size of the club and the expectations placed on the hatters. Stockport may have only won the National League last season, but they were also set as bookmakers’ pre-season favorites for the League Two title. Edgley Park is not a site lacking in ambition.
“It was good, I played most of the games,” Brown explained. “It’s been a bumpy start (to the season) but the team have done well in recent weeks. I think Stockport, with the football they’ve played, it was important for me to play that style. If They play better and more confident players, that helps you.
“Number one is game time, you see what the manager needs and what position too. With Stockport, the football they play, they wanted me to come in at right-back and right-back. Other clubs might just want cover and Then the location, I’m in Manchester so it’s not too far. I went to the training ground and they have a great setup. I went and got a good feeling about it.
“When I got there I was told they wanted two consecutive promotions. It’s the same with Blackburn with that kind of pressure and it’s good to put yourself in those positions. It’s a big club with a following, I saw. I wanted to play in big games in front of big crowds. I want to be under pressure because that will always improve you.”
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