William Brown’s Everton career began and ended with League Championship winning seasons, but the Scottish half back left Goodison after a 14-year career without a medal to his name.
Brown joined Everton in May 1914 as a 17-year-old from the Scottish junior club Cambuslang Rangers, having impressed a watching director. Everton donated £10 to the Lanarkshire club for his services and it proved to be a fine investment indeed.
He made his Everton debut in the 1914/15 season but with only four appearances to his name did not collect a League Championship medal at the season’s end. Indeed, with the intervention of war, it would take him the best part of a decade to make an Everton shirt his own.
With Neil McBain and Hunter Hart in the mid-1920s he formed a distinguished half-back line, whose modus operandi was to keep the ball on the ground during a time when other half backs had a propensity to loft it aimlessly into the air. He was, wrote Ernest ‘Bee’ Edwards, a half back of ‘customary excellence’ with an ability to hold a ‘vice-like grip’ on his opponents. On occasion he deputised at right back and was a reliable if unspectacular defensive shield. ‘Brown who played a capital defensive game proved a thorn in the Burnley attack,’ reported the Liverpool Courier of his performance against Burnley in November 1925. ‘Time after time he held up the visitor's front line when it seemed well on the way towards the Blues’ citadel.’
Pace, however, was never one of his great virtues and in a side threatened by relegation in the 1926/27 season this failing was cruelly exploited. After a 6-2 hammering at Leicester City in February 1927, Brown was heavily criticised for his performance. ‘The chief cause of the debacle was the inability of the wing half backs Reid and Brown to hold up the speedy wing play of the City,’ reported the Liverpool Post and Mercury. ‘They were distinctly poor. They were neither good in defence nor construction, and as a consequence their forwards had to work out their own salvation, and were not successful in their task, while the defence had double duty to perform.’
Brown lost his place in the side to Jerry Kelly and although he deputised twice in the 1927/28 season. once more it was not enough to claim an elusive League Championship medal. At the season’s end he joined Nottingham Forest for £500, the Everton board meanly refusing to award the player his share of the ‘benefit’.