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Brian Horton exclusive: Working with Phil Brown at Hull; facing Man Utd great Ferguson

Football is a game of tactics both on and off the field, and managers arguably have the hardest job of them all. A manager will find themselves overseeing erratic environments both in the dressing room and in the board room, yet still face expectations from players and club hierarchy to achieve the best results.

Brian Horton is well traversed through the English system and his character was primed for management well before he hung up his boots. Having a short stint as a player manager with Hull City made him realise the differences between being a leader on and off the pitch but stresses the importance of having a solid backroom behind the scenes.

He tells Tribalfootball.com: "It's tough trying to juggle playing and managing, the first year we won promotion and we were winning almost every week. We finished 6th second season which was also fantastic. For me it was a tough season, gets hard trying to manage everything as a player-manager so I called it a day to focus on management full time. It's too much, almost impossible. That's why it's so important to have good staff around you.

"Having been a captain at Brighton, Port Vale and Luton town helped me on my way to becoming a manager. You observe and you learn what to say to the players in the right manner to get the best results out of the playing group, which translates to wins and success."

Brian spent two years as player-manager of Hull before hanging up his boots in 1986. He may have been a head manager for the majority of his career, but he also spent time as an assistant under former teammate Mark Lawrenson, Paul Dickov and Phil Brown.

Hull was particularly sentimental for Brian as it was the birthplace of his twins, Matt and Lucy, and it was the beginning of over a decade partnership with Phil Brown across 3 different clubs. The pair were at the helm during Hull City's promotion to the Premier League in 2008.

Brian's mentality didn't change all that much while he was an assistant, as it's still management and the responsibilities are shared.

"As a management group it's always a team effort, if you don't have that it's very difficult to be successful. You need the right staff to pull through with you. The final decision rests with the manager, but you get bits and pieces from all of us.

"I knew Phil Brown personally and we grew professionally. Phil worked as an assistant to Sam Allardyce at Bolton before he was appointed at Hull. The final decision rests with the manager but you get bits and pieces from all of us. That's what made us successful, working together as a team."

Throughout his career Brian came up against a myriad of managers, culminating in some names such as Kenny Dalglish, Arsene Wenger and shared the pitch with Sir Alex in a few Manchester derbies during his time with City.

In Brian's book, 2000 Games: A Life in Football, he details the exchanges between managers. The relationships were much different during Brian's managerial days, as he was able to pick up the phone and enquire to Dalglish directly about the availability of Jim Magilton at the time.

Football has evolved into a business and the standard of working relationships has changed dramatically. According to Brian, the camaraderie was much different then as it is now.

"I had a great association with Sir Alex, I always relished playing him it was fantastic. In my first derby we were up 2-0 and lost the game 3-2, the record against him wasn't very reflective but the matches were always fantastic. I loaned him players, he loaned me players. Back then it was a lot easier to phone them up and speak to them directly, but these days there's a great deal of separation and professionalism now."

Though the pitch was shared with some high profile managers, Brian singled out praise for just about every manager he's encountered as a player or as an assistant, taking valuable lessons of football from each one.

Speaking personally, Brian reveals that he never allowed himself to be overawed by rival managers or any situation in football, as it can have a detrimental effect if a manager is not in the right headspace for it.

"Gordon Lee, David Pleat, Allan Mullery, Sir Alex, Arsene Wenger these managers are quality but they're also just top class people as well. I pick bits of what they've all done, I felt really lucky to have spent time with Lee, Pleat and Mullery. We still talk football a lot these days."

"As a manager I always tried to be my own man, that was the key. No matter the result I could always switch it off and sleep at night, you don't want to take it home with you. There was no worse loser than me, but it's important for your family not to feel it."

About the author

Chris Sermeno

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