When one door closes, another one opens.
Like most English children infatuated with football, Chris Brown always aspired to play the sport he loved most at the highest level.
“I was a young footballer like a lot of kids,” said Brown when speaking to Kick360.
Starting his career at now-Championship outfit Luton Town at the age of 11, a move to English footballing behemoths Chelsea was hijacked at the last minute by Crewe Alexandra.
Managed by stalwart Dario Gradi, who held the record for most games managed in the English Football League until November 2021 with 1601, the then-Alex boss convinced the young Hatter to swap Kenilworth Road for Gresty Road.
“I was going to sign for Chelsea at the end of the season from Luton and he asked if I would like to spend a week with Crewe before I made my decision.
“Crewe have got a renowned youth system and ended up going up, loving it, very good players, great coaches and so I signed.
“I enjoyed all of it, I enjoyed living up there, playing, going away to the Milk Cup in Ireland, playing in the FA Youth Cup, I just wished it would have continued for longer.”
Unfortunately, injuries prevented Brown’s playing career from ever being allowed to progress, retiring from the game at the age of 18.
However, his time with the Railwaymen was by no means a waste, with Gradi, and Gareth Southgate’s assistant during England’s fairytale run to the final of EURO 2020 Steve Holland, fostering Brown’s love for player development while at the club.
“I had arguably two of the most productive English coaches in the last 20-30 years to work with in Dario Gradi and Steve Holland, who is obviously the England assistant manager with Gareth Southgate.
“They are a big influence on me, it was around improving players, everything was around developing players, even at first team level.
“Dario would be happier if the teams played well and looked like they were getting better than potentially a result.
“The influences they gave me is that Dario was hard on you because he wanted you to improve and standards were high.”
Now based in the United Arab Emirates after short stints in Perth, Greece, and back in England, Brown continued on the player development path in the Middle East.
In 2006, two years after first setting foot in the UAE, he started work for the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence, a facility hoping to attract the best squads from around the globe to the country.
Brown worked there when Pim Verbeek’s Socceroos were looking for a home away from home in the Middle East, starting at the centre in 2007, with the relationship still ongoing to the present day.
“They were opening to attract Premier League teams, international teams, even Australia used it as a base, we started a relationship with [the Socceroos] in 2007.
“When Australia moved into the AFC, they were playing so many games in this part of the world, they were looking for a training base.
“Pim Verbeek was the manager, who is sadly no longer with us, and Graham Arnold was his assistant.
“That was when they had Harry Kewell, Cahill, a very good squad, as with most Australians their attitude was very professional, but at the same time you could have a laugh and enjoy their company.”
“We have kept the relationship with Australia, last year I even organised a training camp for the U23’s before they went to Uzbekistan and worked with the national team when they played their World Cup Qualifier against China in Sharjah, where I helped with some logistics.”
Perhaps Brown’s most famous accomplishment was his role as the founder of the Mina Cup.
Held yearly in Dubai, the tournament pits the best youngsters in the world against one another, with the 2022 tournament included youth representatives from the likes of Barcelona, Manchester City and Wolves amongst a plethora of other clubs.
Brown took inspiration from the SuperCupNI (formerly known as the Milk Cup), a tournament he played in during his youth career at Crewe, to help form this competition.
“I was lucky enough to play in some great competitions as a kid, one of them at that point being called the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland.
“That was an incredible tournament, it’s one of the very best in the world, started in about 1986, if you look at the players who have played in it and won Player of the Tournament, it’s a who’s who of professional footballers.
“The experience of walking through Coleraine and Port Rush in Northern Ireland, people would come out and support it, it was like you were a professional.
“I wanted to emulate that tournament over here, there has been tournaments over here in Dubai that have been poorly run, not deserved of the facilities and the accommodation.
“You don’t have to work hard to make people want to come here because people want to come here anyway.”
While Chris Brown never got the chance to play at the highest level, he wants to make sure that he gives others the best chance of doing what he could not.