Born on this day is former Sunderland and Manchester United defender Wes Brown. The ex-England international signed for the Lads in 2011 after making over 200 league appearances for United.
Brown had a unique path into football. Whilst some players begin playing at a very young age, the defender was more focused on karate! He failed at his black belt twice aged nine, and told his dad he didn’t want to do it anymore. Then at 11 years old he joined his first Sunday league team and was picked up by United.
He made his debut under Sir Alex Ferguson aged just 18, coming on as a substitute in a 3-0 win over Leeds United. One of his first actions in the match was winning a race with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to win the ball, and the legendary striker jokingly telling him to slow down afterwards!
The following season, Brown had an excellent breakthrough at Old Trafford, becoming a regular in the side. His versatility was a big part of this, playing at right back as well as his more natural position of centre half. It was a perfect season for United, who managed to win the treble: The Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.
However, a string of big injuries kept Brown out of the side for a whole season in 1999/2000, where the Red Devils won the Premier League for the sixth time in eight years. Brown made a comeback from injury the following season though, and received high praise from everyone at United. He was always solid and reliable, but injuries prevented him from having any real consistency in the first team.
The defender’s first goal for Man United came in a 2-1 win over Newcastle in 2005, leaping like a salmon from a corner to give United the three points.
After 15 successful years at Old Trafford, Brown joined Sunderland along with his fellow teammate John O’Shea. He made his debut in a 1-1 draw with Liverpool, and was actually given Man of the Match for an impressive performance. His first goal in red and white came in December 2011, scoring a late header in a 3-2 win after the lads had given up a 2-0 advantage.
After an impressive first half of the season, Brown’s season was ended in January 2012 after picking up an injury against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup. He then suffered more major setbacks which kept him out until November 2013, when he made his return against Hull.
As the 2013/14 season dragged on, the injuries and recovery had clearly taken their toll on Brown, who looked severely off the pace. He was sent off a remarkable three times that season, despite only beginning to play in November!
In 2015, one of Brown’s most memorable moments came in a Sunderland shirt, for the wrong reasons. He was inexplicably sent off for bringing United striker Radamel Falcao down in the box, despite it being John O’Shea who actually committed the foul! Referee Roger East was insistent that he’d sent the right player off, but the red card was quickly rescinded in the following days.
In June 2015, when it looked like Brown was on his way out of the club, Dick Advocaat renewed the veteran defender’s contract for an additional year. However, he made just six league appearances in his final year at the club, with neither Advocaat or later Sam Allardyce fancying the 36-year-old at the time.
After leaving Wearside, Brown had a brief spell at Blackburn Rovers before joining Indian side Kerala Blasters, and eventually retiring in 2018.