The Blackburn Rovers defender reveals behind the scenes of his 12-month rollercoaster in an exclusive interview with Lancs Live
When the time came for James Brown to make a decision about his immediate future, it was relatively straightforward for the Blackburn Rovers defender.
The Irishman was in his first pre-season in English football, hoping to make his mark at Ewood Park. A patient wait finally yielded a first taste of Championship action on the final day of the 2021/22 season at Birmingham City.
Brown was given a full debut by Tony Mowbray and the buzz of a long-awaited break was carried into a new era under Jon Dahl Tomasson. But football waits for no one and an internship in Scotland saw the 24-year-old leave with an important connection.
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“Jon walked in and nobody knew where they were,” Brown told Lancs Live. “I did a few weeks in pre-season and played in the Accrington game, I had a dead calf so I couldn’t play in the Scotland games.
“While we were there, we had an honest conversation with Gregg Broughton and they said it was my option. They had always wanted a right-back with Nyambe gone, so they said I could play week after week, or I could fight for my position. .
“With the season I had last season I wanted to establish my name and play football regularly in England. I think I made the right decision to go on loan this season, especially after they signed Callum Brittain who I thought would play most of the games .Personally, I needed to get out and play regularly.
“I had a conversation with Jon before I left and he thought it was a good decision to go on loan. I asked him what he could improve and work on, he said to play, get in shape. He told me to work on my final product, which it’s good and I’m doing it, I hope I can come back next pre-season and prove that I’ve developed.
Brown was by no means forced to lend. The decision was entirely his, but when you hear his backstory, it’s pretty obvious why he found the decision really straightforward.
Twelve months ago, Brown was playing part-time for Ireland’s Drogheda United. He balanced his playing days with work at a gym, which often had early starts and long hours. Not that you would hear him complaining.
So after six months of waiting in the wings at Ewood Park, first-team football was a priority. Brown jumped at the chance to forge a name for himself in English football.
As he described it, there is ‘a big bad world out there’. Playing football is a privilege and one that he is loving in League Two with well-backed Stockport County.
“It’s been mad, a real rollercoaster,” he explains, reflecting on the last 12 months. The season ended in November in Ireland, I had to get myself fully fit. I had some chats with Mowbray and he didn’t want to change the defence at that part of the season.
“That was understandable, I did think I could have had a few opportunities. I could have made my debut a lot earlier, then I loved it at Birmingham and then we had pre-season and I am out on loan, football is a crazy game.
“I am very grateful for where I am at. This time last year I was working and playing football. I know what it’s like in the real world, I have done early mornings and long shifts. I have worked in gyms and this now feels like this paradise. I am enjoying every minute, I love it in Manchester and I am enjoying life at the minute.
“I don’t know much different, when I made my debut, I was part-time. I got up for work and I got on with things. I came over here and you see lads complain about little things and I’m saying in my head ‘come on, there’s a bad world out there’. The main difference is recovery, you can look after yourself a lot more. I am making the most of it.”
Finding the right club, especially at this stage in Brown’s career, was essential. It needed to be the right fit, with the right manager who would help develop a player with bundles of enthusiasm and a drive to improve.
Stockport was the perfect club. After meeting with Dave Challinor and viewing the facilities, Brown got an instant feel that this was the right place.
The location was ideal too. As was the size of the club and the expectations surrounding the Hatters. Stockport may have only won the National League last season but they were installed as the bookmakers’ pre-season favourite for the League Two title as well. Edgley Park is not a ground that lacks ambition.
“It’s been good, I’ve played the majority of games,” Brown details. “It was a rocky start (to the season) but the team has done ok in the recent few weeks. I think Stockport, with the football they played, it was important for me to go and play that style. If you play with better and confident players, that helps you.
“Number one is playing 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-wing-back. Other clubs may only 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 set-up. I went and I got a good feeling for it.
I was told when I got there that they wanted back-to-back promotions. Having that sort of pressure, it’s the same with Blackburn and it’s good to put yourself in those positions. It’s a big club with a fan base, I looked at that, I wanted to play in big games with big crowds. I want to be under pressure as this will always improve you.”
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