Mike Brown has known for months that his time is up. In December, he was told at a four-minute rally that there is no more place for him at Harlequins.
He has since dodged questions about his future and avoided awkward conversations with his teammates.
“What’s he going to say?” Danny Care asked, saying a few kind words on Wednesday morning to be next to this article.
Fullback Mike Brown has made his appearance on his Harlequin exit in an exclusive Sportsmail interview
Brown (photo) spoke with rugby correspondent Nik Simon The Mail on Sundays
Brown could have made his announcement through a polished press release from the club, but he wants to do it on his own terms. Some people struggle with Brown’s blunt and honest assessments. Some of his employers will ignore this.
He wants to recognize the good times, the fans, the coaches and the teammates who have become his extended family. But he also wants to set the record.
“I wanted to stay with Quins,” says Brown emphatically, before moving on to something else. ‘I was completely open about the club. I’ve always wanted to stay and I wanted to finish my career at Quins. I like this club. I will always love this club no matter how things turned out. ‘
In a few months, Brown and his young family will be moving 300 miles north to Newcastle. His wife, Eliza, has already signed up with the realtors in the North East and former Quins No 8 Nick Easter, who is now a defense coach at Newcastle, has also lend a helping hand in finding the best areas to rent.
“At this stage in my career and life, there is no point in moving, but I had no choice,” says Brown. I chased the club for weeks about a new contract and when they finally brought me in for a meeting, it took four minutes.
Paul Gustard told me I had no future here and I stared into unemployment. I’m 35, have a family to support, and I’ve been with Harlequins since I was 18. There was no “Thank you for your efforts, we will help you with your future”.
The 35-year-old is moving his family, including son Jax, three, to Newcastle this summer
‘It was one of the worst feelings of my life. I couldn’t ignore it. It wasn’t like my legs were gone and I can’t get back into the team. Earlier that week, Gussy had done an interview on the Rugby Pass website saying he wanted to reduce the age of the team. A few days later I was gone. I never thought it would end like this. ‘
He adds, ‘People think you just show up, work out, play a game and go home. That’s not how it is. You put so much emotional energy into rugby. It’s your life. When you are pushed aside and fired, you feel like you are worthless. I went straight to my car, past Scott Baldwin, who could see that I was distraught. I was just sitting in the car and crying.
‘You go home and have to explain to your wife what just happened. She shares the stress of being unemployed there and not really sure where you’re going. Then you call your father to tell him what happened.
Not long ago he attended a ‘Mike Brown Bar’ presentation where I was told that I will always have a place in the club. Suddenly he hears that I am no longer wanted. He’s been on my rugby journey with me and you get even more upset when you see the effect it has on the people you love. ‘
What happened is not right and he is adamant that he will say his piece on his own terms. He hopes that by sharing his experience, the club will be able to deal with such situations differently in the future. He also wants the next generation to take stock.
“Professional sport is relentless,” he says. ‘I’ve said it before in my columns and now I’ve experienced it first hand. When Gabriel Ibitoye left last summer, I said, “Good for him.” You have to take care of yourself because I’m not sure how much loyalty is in the game.
Quins stalwart Brown is eager to reach 300 Premiership appearances in his entire career
‘When you’re young and playing for England, people will bow to you and make you feel like a million dollars. I would tell any young player to take care of themselves physically and financially.
‘Do what’s best for you because if you’re injured, you’ll be pushed aside. And when it comes to the end I’m not sure how much will be taken care of for you. ‘
It’s lunchtime when Brown does this interview and his son, Jax, races through the yard. Brown has just come home from private training with Margot Wells.
‘Throughout his career, he has visited the speed coach at his own expense on his days off. There are no intentions to wind down. Last week, coach Adam Jones claimed that Brown’s club form should face him as a leftist Lions candidate. Newcastle coach Dean Richards will no doubt be pleased with what he sees.
“I know Dean well from his time at Harlequins,” says Brown. “ We’ve kept in touch about anything and everything throughout my career, so we’re fairly open and honest with each other.
‘From the beginning I told him I didn’t want to leave Quins and he understood. However, the Premiership is the best competition in the world, and I feel like I still have a lot to offer. I didn’t want to move abroad.
Brown played 72 games for England in a storied international career, scoring 13 tries
Dean said, “Are you sure about this?” I went back to the club after Gussy left and asked if anything had changed but they said no. That was that. Dean said, “What do you want?” I told him my fair market value and he knew I wasn’t taking the p * ss so it was signed on the spot. Ready and dusted within a day.
Quins did come back to me early last week and said in a roundabout way that they had changed their mind. They made a pretty low offer, but I had already signed with Newcastle and given my word to Dean, so it was too late.
Dean was my first coach. He gave me many of my breaks as a youngster and he put so much into the game, so I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. It is really exciting to work with him again and I will give everything I have for Newcastle.
‘It is an ambitious club. They were at the top of the table around Christmas and I want to go there to win silverware. Being a part of their success really motivates me. I’ve never known anything other than Quins, so it’s a new challenge that I’m excited about.
“There are guys out there that I know well, like Luther Burrell, Toby Flood, Mark Wilson, and I can’t wait to stay with them. They are a great, close-knit, hard-working group and I want to add to that.
‘I’m also looking forward to working with the younger guys like Adam Radwan and Ben Stevenson. Hopefully I can provide some experience and perspective on what they are already doing.
Brown will join former England teammate Toby Flood (photo left) in Kingston Park
‘I want to compete for the No15 jersey and, as long as I still play well, make 300 Premiership appearances [Brown has made 240 so far]That’s something no other player has done before. ‘
But for that, Brown wants to unsubscribe from Harlequins on a high. On the walls of Jax’s playroom are pictures of his time in the Stoop. The next few months will provide plenty of time to reflect on a chapter that forged Brown’s status as a Harlequins legend before everything is packed in a moving van for the move.
“I made my dream come true with Quins,” he says. ‘I won the Premiership, won the Amlin Cup and played for England. If I hadn’t moved from Salisbury to work at Harlequins, I would have taken a place at St. Mary’s University to study gymnasium and landed in any job.
‘I wouldn’t have met all these incredible people like Mark Evans, Colin Osborne, Tony Russ, Andy Friend, Conor O’Shea. Or players like Andy Gomarsall, Ugo Monye, Jordan Turner Hall, Danny Care, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler. There are too many to list them all. Jordan introduced me to my wife and we now have a son. The place has shaped my life and I will always be grateful for it.
‘The fans are great too. Some of them were critical and I have always enjoyed the challenge of winning them over. I will never forget when the fans tunneled us from the Stoop to Twickenham for the Premiership final. It was one of the best days of my life. Sing with Nick Easter on the field afterwards. Those memories will stay with me forever. ‘
Brown also discussed the difficulty of leaving friends like scrum-half Danny Care (left)
Brown is already one of the most decorated players in the club’s history, but he is not ready to step down yet. Harlequins have been on the rise since their coaching overhaul in January, plotting a late Premiership charge.
“I’ve always wanted to keep the No15 jersey at a certain standard for whoever puts it on,” he says. Hopefully I did and hopefully whoever records it can add something to that.
‘A lot of young talent comes through. Guys like Marcus Smith and Louis Lynagh are in a good place to help the club move forward. I loved working with them and watching them develop. Maybe the club has moved away from its roots for a while, but it’s good to see the production line back up and running.
‘We are now playing to our strengths. Fast pace, counter attacks, flips, getting your head over the ball. We got back to that and it’s nice to end with a smile on my face. The mind in the group is better than in a long time. Everything that has happened in recent months has grounded the group and the senior guys have really stepped up.
‘If we can stay in the top four until the end of the season, anything can happen. I would really like to finish by road in a Premiership final. That’s our goal and it would be the perfect way to finish it. ‘