From: Ipswich Town - on loan - January 2002
Record: Played: 10(1) Scored: 3
To: Ipswich Town - end of loan - March 2002
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: A call to arms
Gone...but definitely not forgotten....
You'd have to go back to the end of the 1993/94 season, when Glenn Roeder borrowed and subsequently bought a
journeyman striker from Southend, to find a loan signing having such an impact. Then, it turned out that the
striker was Tommy Mooney, which is a bit like finding a winning lottery ticket down the back of your second-hand
sofa. Now, the anonymous defender from Ipswich revealed himself as Wayne Brown, a player of clattering
commitment looking for an embattled rearguard to call his own.
Generally, loan players hang around in no man's land, lost somewhere between two clubs. Not so here. In two
tremendous months, Wayne Brown hurled himself so wholeheartedly into whatever Watford Football Club asked
of him that you rather imagined that he'd have chained himself to the East Stand rather than be forced to return to Portman
Road. While George Burley may be correct in saying that there was never any possibility of a permanent
deal, he might have trouble explaining that to a player who confessed that he'd be "gutted" if he couldn't
continue to be part of things at the Vic next season.
It wasn't merely that he turned up, played well and went again. At a critical time, with the team drifting,
promotion hopes disappearing and high wage-earners being transfer-listed, Wayne Brown's attitude somehow
seemed to reverberate through the squad. It was, if you like, a bit of a call to arms. Those of a like
mind - Alec Chamberlain, Filippo Galli, Neil Cox, Allan Nielsen - seemed to mount a take-over bid, dragging
others along with them. In many ways, the results weren't as important as a fundamental change in approach.
It took a while, but they started working for each other again...working really, really hard...and
they won back the fans in the process.
Despite sending Gifton Noel-Williams on his way to an equalising goal at Preston with his first kick of the
ball in a yellow shirt, it took a couple of games for Brown to settle. But when he found his rhythm - usually a slow, thunderous stomp,
sometimes an alert shuffle, and a swaying gallop in emergencies - he inspired and delighted in equal measure.
There was something extremely refreshing about seeing such totally nonsense-free, unfussy defending. Wayne
Brown, gawd bless 'im, does not stand on ceremony. He's comfortable enough in possession and passes
constructively...but, when the ball needs clearing, it gets cleared really bloody hard and very far
away. Many a moment of danger was brought to an abrupt halt by an almighty WALLOP and sighs of
relief as the ball sailed into the proverbial Row Z. Against Grimsby, he shoulder-charged an opponent away from the ball with
such power that the poor chap was nearly sent bowling into the lower Rous from fully twenty yards away. That's what you want.
In a rejuvenated, suddenly youthful Filippo Galli, he seemed to find a kindred spirit and an equal partner. For both, there's
no magic, no secret formula. You get stuck in, you contest everything...you win that header, you scrap for that tackle, you get
that ball clear, you mark that player...whatever comes your way, you deal with it and you move on. With the
assistance of Neil Cox, Paul Robinson and Alec Chamberlain, none of them exactly lacking in competitive
instinct, the Watford defence gradually became stubborn and belligerent.
If mistakes were still made on occasions, they were made honestly and positively, and they were readily
forgiven and quickly forgotten as a consequence. As the Hornets recorded a series of terrific results against
playoff contenders towards the end of Brown's loan spell, the sheer intensity of the defending repeatedly
blocked out what initially appeared to be clear-cut chances, frustrating opponents and bringing obvious
satisfaction to Brown and his new team-mates. Suddenly, they played with purpose and determination...and some
success. A template for a much brighter future.
It wasn't always that good, of course. While Brown himself rarely let his standards slip, the team continued to
find consistency elusive. Nevertheless, it really was that good sometimes, which is a great improvement on
never at all. In a mighty victory over promotion-chasing Coventry, Brown signed off with two headed goals, a "man
of the match" award (his fourth in eleven games) for another massively impressive performance...and one last almighty
WALLOP that cleared the Rous stand.
You wouldn't have to do much reading between these lines to realise that bringing Wayne Brown to Vicarage Road
permanently during the summer would be a serious morale boost...for the player himself, for the squad that he
clearly felt part of, and for the supporters who've rapidly taken him to their hearts. Much will depend on the fate of Ipswich, who can probably count on a few more well-wishers as they fight against relegation between now
Loan players are often peripheral figures. At best, we get a fleeting glimpse; at worst, we can't get rid of them
soon enough. But, as with Tommy Mooney back in 1993/94, a quick glance through the finest Watford performances of the
season reveals that Wayne Brown was right at the heart of most of them.
He'd be welcome back.