PHIL Brown doesn’t do ‘low key’.
With his sharp suits and gregarious personality, the former Hull City manager became one of the most recognisable figures in the game after delivering top-flight football to the KC Stadium.
Now in charge of relegation-threatened Preston North End, Brown is enjoying the limelight once again as he attempts to pull off arguably the greatest escape act in the Championship’s brief but tumultuous history.
“You can’t help but look forward to games when the pressure is cranked up,” said Brown. “That’s why I’m in football and that’s why these lads are too.
“The bigger the game, the more high-profile the game, then the better it is as far as I’m concerned.
“It would be nice to think that safety could be in our hands at the end of the season.
“Since I came here to this club, that’s never been the case, so we need to try and put things in our hands somewhere along the line because at the moment we are still chasing a deficit.”
While Sheffield United were being beaten by Cardiff City on Tuesday evening, a goal from substitute Paul Hayes ensured Preston took a point from their visit to Doncaster Rovers.
Fellow striker Chris Brown, returning to the side following a hamstring injury, has bought into his namesake’s way of thinking ahead of tomorrow’s meeting at Deepdale.
“The Sheffield United game is massive,” he said. “We’ll definitely be up for that.
“There’s a lot more structure to our play and we’re prepared to get our heads in at both ends of the pitch, as we showed against Doncaster.
“I think we can still do it (stay up) and we have to believe that we can. Anything is possible.”
With Preston seven points adrift of safety and United eight, most followers of Championship competition will raise an eyebrow at that assertion.
Like his counterpart, Micky Adams, Brown believes only a sequence of five straight wins will given either club a chance of overhauling Crystal Palace in 21st. They entertain Scunthorpe at Selhurst Park.
“That’s what we’re aiming for,” he said. “And the next one is always the most important.
The Sheffield United game is massive for us, a real six-pointer and the game of the season as far as I’m concerned.
“I’m putting pressure on the lads, saying that because I know they can respond to it. And I’m putting pressure on the supporters too because I’d love to see a full house at Deepdale.”
Barring any last-minute complications, Chris Brown seems certain to partner former Barnsley marksman Iain Hume against United.
“I couldn’t not go with Chris and Iain after watching them do so well together recently,” Phil Brown said. “But I admit I was hanging on by the skin of my teeth with Chris wondering whether he would last 90 minutes or even make the starting line-up in the first place. It was a bit of a punt to put him in there only three weeks after being injured but the physios were brave in letting us have him back because normally they hang on to the players for grim life.
“However, we need to be positive at the moment because we need to win games.”
Scunthorpe’s David Mirfin, meanwhile, is confident the Lincolnshire club will prosper even if they are relegated.
Speaking ahead of the trip to south London, the defender said Alan Knill’s arrival has freshened things up at Glanford Park.: “You can tell that wherever we’re going to be it’s going to be a season to look forward too.
“The drive the new management team have got is great. They want to be perfectionists at everything they do and every little detail has got to be 100 per cent right.
“They’ve got their standards and they all want us to match them.”
Palace, who are one place above Scunthorpe in the rankings, expect their next two games to decide their season.
Dougie Freedman, whose side face Doncaster next week, said: “I think we’ve got enough in our locker and enough within the squad to get the vital points we need against those two teams and keep ourselves in this division
“Then we can build on that.”