Wes Brown: Under Appreciated

man utd defender wes brown

Player Profile: Wes Brown

Date of Birth: 13/10/1979

Height: 1.85m

Position(s): Centre-back, right-back

National Team: England

International Caps: 23

International Goals: 1

Club Career

Legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson once called Wes Brown the finest natural defender the club has had in quite some time. But while, the club’s fans still laud the names of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, Brown is not someone who comes to mind when discussing club legends at Old Trafford.

So what went wrong? Well, perhaps the real question we should be asking is if anything went wrong at all. The numbers that define Brown’s career are pretty impressive. He spent 15 years at one of the biggest clubs on the planet during its most successful period. He won everything there is to win with them including the Champions League and even had a decent run with his national team. Maybe his unassuming nature causes him to be lost in the shuffle.

After joining Manchester United as a 12-year-old, Wes Brown signed full professional terms at the age of 17 on November 4, 1996. As a local lad from Longsight, Brown was understandably excited at being able to represent his boyhood club. And as he developed, fans were excited too. Brown showed a lot of potential in his youth, winning the club’s Jimmy Murphy award for the best young player, not once but twice. Only Ryan Giggs had managed that feat before. He was also part of an FA Youth Cup-winning team.

Brown made his first-team debut against Leeds United towards then end of the 1997-98 season and then played the year’s final game against Burnley. He graduated to full-time first-team duties during United’s legendary treble-winning season in 1998-99. The defender was able to make 21 appearances that season, including four in the Champions League. Ferguson used him as a back-up right-back during this season and Brown duly impressed with strong runs forward and his ability to trackback.

The next season though was a bad one for Brown as injuries kept him out for almost an entire year. However, he came back even stronger in the 2000-01 season, making 41 appearances across all competitions. At just 21, he was being proclaimed as the next great England defender and ended the season with another Premier League winner’s medal. Brown even made the PFA Team of the Year alongside fellow United teammates Fabien Barthez, Jaap Stam, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs and Teddy Sheringham.

It took until 2003-04 for Brown to score his first United goal, which came against Juventus at Old Trafford. At this point, Brown was an extremely useful asset for Ferguson with his ability to slot in at both right-back and centre-back. However, he continued to remain injury-prone. A knee injury the defender picked up against Everton on the final day of the season kept him out till mid-way through the next. That year, he managed to add an FA Cup crown to his burgeoning title collection. 

In 2006 though, Brown lost any chance he had of forcing his way into United’s first-choice central defensive partnership with the arrival of Nemanja Vidic. The Serbian formed an incredible partnership with Rio Ferdinand in the heart of United’s defence, and the duo remained two of the first names on the United team sheet for many years to come.

However, the decline of Gary Neville allowed Brown to stake a claim as United’s first-choice right-back. It was a role he played to perfection during the 2007-08 season when United won both the Premier League and the Champions League. A goal against Liverpool during a 3-0 win and assisting Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League final were the highlights of the season for Brown. That season would remain the best of his career in terms of appearances as well.

The following season, injuries plagued him on a regular basis and he was never quite able to recapture his best form for the Red Devils. In 2011, he left Old Trafford after winning five Premier League titles, two FA Cups, two League Cups and two Champions Leagues titles.

His next destination was Sunderland. He was an instant hit at the Stadium of Light as he produced a man-of-the-match performance against Liverpool on his debut. Despite an own goal against his former employees, Brown scored a vital winning goal against Queen’s Park Rangers. However, in January, his season was disrupted once again by injury.

Brown stayed with Sunderland until 2015-16 before joining Blackburn Rovers for a year. After that stint, he moved to India to play in the Indian Super League for Kerala Blasters. Brown joined his former teammates Dimitar Berbatov and goalkeeper Paul Rachubka and was coached by former United coach Rene Meulensteen. After a season there, he retired from all forms of football.

International Career

Despite being involved with the England squad for eleven years, Brown featured for his country just 23 times.

His debut for the Three Lions came in 1999 against Hungary in a 1-1 draw. He started the game at right-back but was taken off two minutes before the equalising goal.

When Sven Goran Eriksson became England manager, he regularly included Brown in England squads and took him to the 2002 World Cup. However, the form of Gary Neville meant that Brown never ended up becoming the first choice in his position. 

It was under Fabio Capello that he enjoyed his best spell for England as he featured 9 times. He scored his only goal for England against the Czech Republic from a header in 2008. Despite being a favourite for Capello, he missed out on the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. 

Brown officially retired from international duty on August 8 2010, a day after he was selected for the squad to face Hungary in a friendly; the same country he made his debut against. 

Where is Wes Brown now?

Wes Brown had already taken up a coaching role when he was playing for Blackburn Rovers, and he currently holds a UEFA ‘A’ License. 

He has also worked in the media as a pundit for Sky Sports and MUTV. Brown is also a regular guest on the podcast Liquid Football where he discusses current affairs and his time as a professional footballer. Alongside media work, he has an ambassadorial role for Manchester United.

Did you know? Interesting facts about Wes Brown

– Wes Brown comes from a footballing family. His younger brother Reece was in the academy at Manchester United and now plays for Bury FC. His other brother Clive was also a handy footballer and was once on the books of Manchester rivals City.

– He was interested in Karate as a kid. That obsession ended when he failed his black belt tests and started focusing more on football. 

– Brown’s best friend in football is John O’Shea. After leaving United, they both played together at Sunderland.

– When he was still a young apprentice, Brown was given Eric Cantona’s boots to clean before the 1996 FA Cup final. Cantona ended up scoring the winner during that game.