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In Review: Brown Out

Filed: Saturday, 26th January 2008
By: Matthew O'Greel

Pennant Books
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As John Charles said to me, 'What the f*ck does Harry Redknapp know about football?'

'Forgive and Forget - or Over My Dead Body?' asked one KUMB.com member on the KUMB forums earlier this week in response to the release of Brian Belton's latest effort, 'Brown Out' - the controversial book about the life and times of former Hammers chairman Terry Brown.

The theme of the book appears to be very much the former, as Brown - via prolific Hammers author Belton - makes a case for the defence with regard to pretty much every situation in which he was cast as the devil incarnate during his fourteen year spell as Chairman of West Ham United.

All of the controversial topics are covered in great detail, from the Bond Scheme (which led to Brown succeeding Martin Cearns as Chairman in 1992) right through to the Carlos Tevez scandal which saw the club land a world record 5.5m fine and resulted in Brown's banishment from the Boleyn Ground by the very people he sold the club to, Messrs Magnusson and Gudmundsson.

During the book we learn a great deal about Brown which has never been made public before, such as his early days as a promising young footballer and how he developed his trading skills as a teenager buying and selling various goods from his father's van - although those sections will probably be of little interest to those wishing to learn about Brown's reign as club Chairman.

Unsurprisingly for a book in which he was consulted in great detail - and, one would assume given the nature of the content, had at least some editorial control over - Brown is often cast as a misunderstood character who always acted in the best interests of West Ham United FC and not, as is often claimed by his detractors, in self interest.

So we learn that the Bond Scheme was 'crucial' to securing the loans necessary to complete the regeneration of the North (Centenary) and South (Bobby Moore) stands; that Harry Redknapp was little more than a chancer who was responsible for the club's crippling wage bill of the late 90s; that the relegation side of 2002/03 had 'failed' the supporters; that suggestions claiming that Brown duped fans with his infamous 'no fire sale' speech were wide of the mark; that he was a 'scapegoat for most of West Ham's ills' ... well, you get the picture.

Brown's (many) critics will claim different, of course, although there is no need to go into great detail with counter-arguments here. However it's safe to say that the recurring theme of 'Brown Out' appears to be an attempt to rewrite the way in which the usually publicity-shy Brown's reign at Upton Park was, or will in future years, be perceived.

Unsurprisingly, many negatives of Brown's reign are overlooked in the book; how the club spent 150,000 on a model boat when the finances could perhaps have been better directed elsewhere, for example - and how his relentless personal vendetta against certain members of WHISTLE saw at least one of them left in financial ruin.

But with all said and done the fact remains that Brown - who always claims to have acted in the interest of West Ham United FC first and foremost - left the club some 40m the richer (having borrowed from the club in order to purchase his initial stake). Regardless of how many books are written in order to defend his regime that undisputable fact remains, and will almost certainly overshadow any attempt - either here or in the future - to rewrite history in his favour.

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