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  • Brown Ferguson 

    Tuesday, October 02, 2012 2:12:22 AM

    Today's match sees the return to the Recs of one of Alloa's finest players of recent years, Brown Ferguson. 'Bomber' first arrived at the club a decade ago, signed by Terry Christie in 2002 as he bolstered his squad for a second attempt at staying in Division 1. Brown was just 21 when he signed for Alloa, but the Falkirk born midfielder had already gained considerable experience with his first club, East Stirlingshire, having made his debut shortly after his 17th birthday.

    Bomber gave fine service to the Shire but the chance to step up to Division 1 with Alloa was a welcome one. “It was at the time when Alan Mackin was coming into the Shire and there was a bit of unrest at the club. It was a good opportunity for me to move on and the right time". It was also a good bit of business by Terry Christie, with Alloa getting their man on a free transfer due to a contractual mix up at the Shire.

    Brown made a fine start to his Alloa career and it was a real blow to the player and to the team when he suffered a broken leg against Raith Rovers at Starks Park. Alloa's form deteriorated and by the turn of the year the team already looked doomed to relegation. The loan signings of Derek Soutar, and in particular a young and dynamic Robert Sloan, were to transform Alloa' s fortunes and the team rallied to close the gap on Ross County. Brown battled back to fitness to make his own contribution, his return to the team coming earlier than expected when he was called off the bench at Gayfield to replace the injured Max Christie. Sadly that injury marked the end of Christie's Alloa career, but his replacement made a dream return from his own injury problems, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win. Ultimately it wasn't enough with Alloa demoted on goal difference.

    Relegation in May 2003 brought to an end something of a golden era at the Recs which had started with appointment of Tom Hendrie in 1996 and continued after Terry Christie replaced the St. Mirren bound Hendrie at the beginning of 1999. The club had lost money during the First Division forays and the summer of 2003 saw cutbacks, followed by the departure of Christie in November. Several experienced men moved on and Brown Ferguson went from being one of the rookies in his first season at the Recs to being seen as one of the senior figures in his second.

    "It was a quick transition to make", says Brown. "I was personally happy with the way I performed and there were some good individual players, Ross Hamilton and Chris Townsley etc, who did really well for the club. As a group though, we were never the strongest".

    Ferguson's consistent fine form in rather mediocre Alloa teams meant a move was inevitable. It came in 2005 with Brown stepping back up to Division 1 with Hamilton Accies, whilst remaining part-time as he completed his studies. Despite being played in a number of different positions, Bomber's time with Accies was a success and he actually finished the year as top scorer. The following year Brown was on the move again, fulfilling his ambition of full-time football by signing for Partick Thistle. Unfortunately, despite again finishing as his club's top scorer from midfield, Bomber's time at Firhill was ultimately a disappointment to him.

    "I was a bit disillusioned by the full-time experience. I am involved now in professional sport as an occupation and I can see when people are trying to be the best they can be as athletes, there is a lot of support needed and an infrastructure built in around that. My personal feeling is that a lot of clubs in the First Division possibly don't have the support in place to really allow players to be as good as they can be. I was one who certainly wanted to get better and I felt the infrastructure really wasn't there to allow me to do that. Thistle are a great club and I did have a good time there, but for me the decision to go back and look for part time football, and to make a career outside of the game, was the right one".

    Alloa were obviously the beneficiaries of that decision with Brown returning to the Recs in the summer of 2007. His second spell at the Recs will be covered in the next edition of the Wasp.

    PART TWO

    Brown Ferguson returned to Alloa from Partick Thistle in 2007. He cites his fond memories of his previous spell - and crucially the impression made on him by manager Alan Maitland - as being key to his return.

    Ferguson's first year back was a good one with Alloa securing a play-off spot. With the demise of Gretna, a victory in the semi-final against Clyde would have been enough to see Alloa into Division 1. Having won the first leg 2-1, the Wasps moved into a commanding 3-1 lead at Broadwood, a rocket from Brown among the goals, and with a 5-2 aggregate lead seemed sure to prevail. All Alloa fans will remember the sickening feeling of watching Clyde turn the tie around to win 6-5 on aggregate.

    "We did well that year and we were perhaps a bit ahead of where we should have been in terms of the playing squad, but the Clyde game, I still reflect on that and I can't believe it actually happened. When the fifth goal went in, the mood of their players, they were a beaten team and we just allowed them back into the game. A very, very, disappointing end to that season".

    2008/09 was a poor one but Bomber was a standout performer, carrying the Alloa team in the opinion of many. His memorable late double against Raith in the Scottish Cup to set up a tie against Aberdeen stands out in particular, but the player was a model of consistency throughout the campaign.

    With a number of new arrivals Alloa were much improved the following year . After completing a clean sweep over rivals Stirling - the final two memorable derbies in March won 3-0 and 2-1 with depleted Alloa squads - the Wasps looked certain to win the title. Somehow however, a team who had looked unbeatable and full of spirit seemed to disintegrate on the closing stretch.

    "Did we take our eye off the ball? Perhaps, but every game is a tough game and we ended up slipping up a few times. I remember the Peterhead game where their keeper got MOTM. It all changed the momentum of things and it ended up as such a disappointing end to a season which had promised so much".

    Brown himself struggled with injury for much of the season and Wasps fans felt a fit Ferguson would have seen the team over the finishing line. The player himself admits frustration that he was unable to influence things on the park as he would have liked.

    Alas, the disappointment did not end there with Alloa relegated a year later. Many observers felt the poor form was a hangover from the events of May 2010 but Brown rejects that theory, pointing out that Alloa started the season pretty well. Instead, he pinpoints the home defeat against Airdrie in December - when Alloa led 2-1 with a minute to go and lost 3-2 - and the confidence sapping run of defeats that followed, as being pivotal. Again Brown struggled with injury and again fans were left wondering how different things could have been had he been fit.

    Alloa hit the dreaded 9th position on the final afternoon of the season, tumbling into a play-off against Annan and costing Alan Maitland and James Ward their jobs. Stepping into the breach were Brown and his brother in law, Wasps defender Scott Walker.

    “It wasn’t that difficult – because it just had to be done. We felt the boys played particularly well at home and we hit the post a couple of times. Looking back on it myself and Scott were proud that we did everything we could in such a short space of time.

    “What was difficult was the circumstances surrounding it. Alan Maitland – a guy who I have the upmost respect for – and Wardy, leaving the club. That was bitterly disappointing to see how that finished, but ultimately the club went down to a position it shouldn’t have, it should never have been in the Third Division”.

    Brown feels that no single factor was to blame for the dramatic collapse, but accepts that some of the squad let down the manager and the club; “I don’t think all the players can look at themselves and say they did everything that they could, that they played to their best or showed the best attitudes at times, but that wasn’t the only reason that things turned out the way they did”.

    Sadly the play-off defeat signalled the end of Brown’s second spell with Alloa. New manager Paul Hartley cleared the squad and although Brown was invited back for pre-season he felt there was a wind of change blowing through the Recs. As such Bomber took up an offer to sign for Stenhousemuir, although he is quick to stress that there was no ill feeling.

    “I left the club on excellent terms. It’s not as if I walked away from the club or they left me in the lurch. It was a difficult end and I think the decisions taken by the club and by Paul Hartley in terms of freshening things up were the right ones and that’s proved to be the case. I had a lot of good times there, and I have a lot of good feelings towards the club”.

    Happily Brown proved his fitness at Stenhousemuir and quickly established himself as a key player. He has already made an impact this season, scoring as Stenny knocked holders Kilmarnock out of the League Cup.

    Brown believes he has a few more seasons as a player, but he is already planning long term for a crack at management. “I think coaching and management is going to be my only real opportunity to be involved at a high, high level. I believe you can only do it when you stop playing, so I’ll concentrate on playing and build up as much knowledge as I can, and hopefully when I hang up the boots, an opportunity will arise, and I can take it with both hands”.

    The popularity of Brown Ferguson at the Recs - despite the fact that he did not play in particularly successful Alloa teams – and the warm welcome he gets as an opposition player - is a clear indication of the esteem in which he is held. I am sure all Alloa supporters will wish Brown good luck for the remainder of his footballing career, as a player and hopefully as a manager. Who knows, perhaps the Brown Ferguson chapter at Alloa isn’t finished just yet.

     

     

     


     



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