Hereford Hero #3 – Wayne Brown

Hereford Hero #3

WAYNE BROWN

Wayne was born in Southampton on 14 January, 1977 and first caught the eye as a goalkeeper at school. Such was his progress he quickly established himself as a 15-year-old first team regular with Bashley in the Southern League Premier Division.

Such was his outstanding form he was snapped up by Bristol City for a £40,000 transfer fee just short of his 16th birthday. However, over the next three seasons he only made 24 appearances for the Robins due to a number of injuries, but starred in a 4-1 win over Peterborough in May 1994, gaining his first professional man-of-the-match award.

Unable to make a breakthrough at Ashton Gate, Wayne returned to the Southern League with a move to Weston-Super-Mare, but a return to the Football League quickly followed as Chester City brought him in as cover for their injured first choice Ronnie Sinclair. Over the next decade he chalked up 289 appearances for Chester, and between 1999 and 2001 he did not miss a single match for the Blues.

During his time at the Deva Stadium he was selected as the England ‘C’ goalkeeper on seven separate occasions, but had to endure relegation in May 2000 when Chester lost their league status on goal difference. Off the pitch financial turmoil gripped the club and it took three seasons for the club to mount a realistic bid for promotion. Wayne suffered an injury in training in December 2003, which sidelined him for the remainder of the campaign, as Chester ended the season as champions of the Conference. Hereford finished runners-up by a single point.

Wayne was awarded a testimonial match by Chester in May 2004 and returned to the side at the start of the next season, but was deemed surplus to requirements a year later and agreed to join Graham Turner’s side in the Conference on a season-long loan basis. Then aged 28, the six foot ‘keeper was to compete with Craig Mawson for the number one jersey at Edgar Street.

Showing all of the self-confidence his game was built upon Wayne immediately became the Bulls’ first choice and was an integral part of the best defence in the Conference, conceding just 30 goals. He became a ‘fans favourite’ earning the nickname ‘Superman’. T-Shirts were even produced ahead of the play-off fixtures. Chester had refused permission for the ‘keeper to play in any cup matches during the loan spell, but agreed to let him feature in the end of season games.

In the 2006 Conference play-off final against Halifax at the Walkers Stadium, Leicester, with just a few minutes to go in extra-time, Brown rushed out and dived at the feet of Chris Senior sustaining a head injury in the process. Brown remained motionless on the deck seemingly concussed. Having made all three substitutions Turner had few options. Midfielder Andy Ferrell made his way to the dug-out and donned the shirt and gloves!

Thankfully a very groggy Brown struggled to his feet and somehow made it through an anxious six minutes of added time. Hereford beat Halifax 3-2 but as physiotherapist Wayne Jones revealed, it had been touch and go whether Brown had continued.

“I couldn’t revive him for a while and I was panicking a little because we had used our three substitutes. Then he got to his feet and started wobbling about. I thought, Oh no. What if he lets one past him? The gaffer will sack me. But thankfully he did alright and was quite safe after that.”

Brown agreed a contract at Hereford and missed only nine league matches out of a possible 92 over the next two seasons. During the 2007/08 season he kept 17 clean sheets as the Bulls gained promotion to League One. He starred in the FA Cup too, most notably in the victory over Leeds United at Elland Road. The match was also his 100th competitive appearance for the club.

Another personal highlight that season came in a 1-0 win at Mansfield Town. In the last minute of the game he saved a Michael Boulding penalty in front of hundreds of Hereford supporters who celebrated as if the Bulls had scored. Almost immediately afterwards Brown dived to deny Jefferson Louis, and ensured Hereford picked up the vital three points.

Turner was delighted with Brown’s contribution, “It was one of those games where you look to your goalkeeper. You assess it afterwards and I don’t normally pick out individuals for praise as it is a team game, but what an outstanding performance that was. He had a magnificent night.”

Brown picked up the supporters ‘Player of the Year’ Award and the ‘Away Supporters Player of the Year’ accolade, after Hereford secured promotion at Griffin Park with a win over Brentford, but was offered only a one-year deal at Edgar Street and signed instead for Bury on a two-year contract. This was a mistake Turner was to publicly acknowledge in later years. Brown had played in 44 of the 46 league games and conceded just 41 goals.

Having joined Bury he helped inspire the Shakers. They finished in 4th place, missing out on promotion by a single goal. In the play-off semi-final they were beaten on penalties by Shrewsbury Town.

In July 2010 Brown set off on another challenge. This time football in South Africa beckoned as the ‘keeper linked up with the Pretoria based club, Supersport United. However, an injury restricted his appearances, and after just 13 games Brown returned to the UK and signed a one-year contract with Oxford United in July 2011.

A further two-year deal followed as Brown provided playing cover and became the goalkeeping coach for Oxford. He has expanded this coaching activity in recent seasons, and now operates goalkeeping academies in Reading, Southampton and across Oxfordshire.

Speaking about the Bulls recently Brown recalled, “I had some great times at Hereford. It’s such a friendly club. The fans are great and stick by you, through thick and thin. I’m astonished with what’s happened. When I left, Graham Turner was the chairman and he ran such a tight ship, nothing went to waste. Hopefully, as a phoenix club the fans can do something to come back strong again.”

Maybe we will get to see ‘Superman Brown’ back at Edgar Street as a special guest in the future.

Keith Hall

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