Hall of Heroes: Stan Brown

Stan Brown. Credit: Fulham FC

Stan Brown was everything you’d hope a Fulham player would be. A player who put the team before himself, falling in love with the club, becoming a lifelong fan and passing the baton onto future generations of the Brown family. When Fulham Focus was first set up, we had no idea how long it would take us to build up the Q&A series and it was those very first interviews that gave us the platform to build from. Stan’s son Darren gave us that chance and went into incredible detail about his Dad’s playing days, his time and willingness to share his Dad’s story will never be forgotten by myself personally, just like Stan’s legacy will never be forgotten. It was an honour for me (Dannyboi) to get to know more about Stan Brown and I was deeply saddened by the news of his death. Therefore it seems only right to pay tribute to the man as I can’t think of a person more fitting at the moment to be inducted into the Fulham Focus Hall of Heroes. Focus’ Pete Grinham (Spigs) was lucky enough to see Stan’s whole Fulham career and has written a superb tribute to the man we know as the player’s player.

Born in Sussex on 15th September 1941, died 16th March 2017 (Age 76).

Was I a fan of Stan Brown? You bet I was.

Stan with Jimmy Hill in 1970

The young Stan Brown joined Fulham as a 16-year-old apprentice in 1957. He had attracted the attention of Fulham as captain of Sussex schoolboys. In those days apprentices cleaned 1st team players’ boots and had general cleaning duties often policed and allocated by the head groundsman. It really was a proper apprenticeship. Stan went through this period and took great pride in keeping Johnny Haynes boots in pristine condition along with other first team players equipment.

He made his Fulham First team debut on 21st January 1960. The handsome young Stan with a stylish and luxuriant mop of hair had to endure a heavy home defeat on his debut of 6-1 to Sheffield United and did not get another opportunity until the 1962/1963 season when he cemented a place in the team with 39 League, FA Cup and League Cup appearances.

Stan’s time in football was during a big change in how football was played and styles and formations were being tweaked all the time with 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 being preferred to the more traditional 2-3-5 formations. This new period meant that midfield men were expected to be high octane players. His career needs to be viewed against this time and a few years later when the game developed further as a Malcolm Allison (a young Manchester City manager) talked about not expecting to see his midfield stop running for a breather, until either the ball went out of play or the half-time or full-time whistle had sounded. England had Alan Ball break through into Sir Alf Ramsey’s midfield as the engine room and was referred to by some as the man with 3 lungs.

The game and football shape was changing further and the development of attacking wing backs like George Cohen replacing more traditional fullbacks. This put more emphasis on the work needed to be done in midfield in defensive covering and ball winning. Cometh the hour at Fulham; cometh the man; Stan Brown – a youthful, high octane team player of the highest calibre without the individual skills of his more illustrious teammates but with the heart of a lion.

When Stan became a first-team feature in the 1962/1963 season, Fulham were attracting large crowds with at least 6 in excess of 25,000 at Craven Cottage with the Spurs game attracting just short of 40,000. People flocked to see the precision skills and vision of Johnny Haynes, the goal-scoring prowess of Graham Leggat, both complemented by the craft of Bobby Robson, the acrobatics of Tony Macedo and, although coming towards the end of his Fulham career, the hard, uncompromising defensive armoury and defiance of Bobby ‘ No prisoners’ Keetch.  However, Stan played a major part in those sides, as he was the oil that energised the team and drove the others allowing them to perform; he was the glue that helped bind them together as a workable team on match days.

Stan playing against Manchester United’s Pat Crerand battling for midfield supremacy

During his Fulham tenure, Stan played in most positions, although I don’t personally recall him in goal. He was the original utility man and did whatever his team and manager asked for the greater good of the team. I remember him most as being part of a midfield three. On one occasion he asked the manager to make midfield his permanent position.

His work rate was colossal and if Alan Ball had 3 lungs, Stan had four. He was a very effective, tenacious tackler and his distribution was extremely good. He did the lion’s share of the hard graft allowing others to shine. It is true to say that this selfless work for the team was not always appreciated in some fan quarters but if you could ask any player who played with him, they would commend his importance to the team. Indeed he became known by some as ‘the player’s player’, a title which was, I believe, initially given to Stan by George Cohen.

Stan had strength, honesty and commitment in abundance and you would want him in the trenches with you because of his ‘never say die’ attitude.

Fulham supporters spoilt with easier on the eyeball players and artists used to say that you rarely noticed Stan when he was playing as you were focused on Haynes and Leggat. Stan did their hard work and chased down players and broke up play but as soon as he was injured and not playing, it left a massive hole and the games of other players suffered as a result.

Stan was awarded a testimonial game in the autumn of 1970 and Fulham took on Chelsea at Craven Cottage before a crowd of 11,024 losing 2-0. A past Fulham team took on an international X1 and past teammates Johnny Haynes, Jimmy Hill, Graham Leggat and Tosh Chamberlain took to the field again. Tosh, forever the joker, wore a white wig for the occasion but scored a goal with his right foot, which had previously been thought to be a standing leg only! Fulham Director Chappie D’Amato presented Stan with a silver inscribed cigarette box.

The last time that I saw Stan Brown play was at Simon Morgan’s testimonial on 2nd August 2000, when the opening game before a Fulham team took on Spurs, saw Fulham veterans take on their Chelsea counterparts. Stan played this game at the age of 59 against a much younger Chelsea team. What I vividly recall was his fitness and willingness to work even at that age. The luxuriant locks may have gone south but that high octave energy was still there and, at times, it seemed like he was continuing where he left off at Craven Cottage; a remarkable disciple of fitness.

Stan’s commitment to fitness was evident as he played on after Fulham with Colchester after a loan spell at Brighton and finally stopped playing for Plumpton in the Sussex League at the age of 54.  Even Sir Stanley Matthews hung his boots up at 50, albeit whilst playing for Stoke.

Stan is in our top 20 Fulham players in terms of appearances for the club with 395 games and 5 substitute appearances. Although a utility player, most of his career was in the engine room of midfield and he contributed 19 league, FA cup and FL cup goals in total during that time.

A wonderful servant to our club who will be sorely missed, not least by his wife Melva and his son Darren and family to whom I extend my heartfelt condolences. RIP Stan. Thank you so much for plying your trade with Fulham FC, helping me to cement my love of the club and helping to make me proud to be a Fulham supporter.

Content Credit: Dennis Turner, Alex White, Getty Images, Darren Brown