Michael Brown has warned Sheffield United that sentiment will not cloud his judgement during today’s League One encounter at Port Vale, writes James Shield.
The former Tottenham Hotspur, Wigan Athletic and Portsmouth midfielder made nearly 200 appearances for the vistors before completing a £500,000 transfer to White Hart Lane a decade ago.
Despite his pride at being part of a rebuilding project, orchestrated by Neil Warnock, which included reaching the last four of both major domestic knockout tournaments and a Championship play-off final in 2003, Brown admitted: “It will be a very tough game. Sheffield United are a fantastic club and we are going to have to be on our game.
“I spent four great years there with Neil and we had a fantastic group of players. We took the club from average gates of 13,000 or 14,000 back to 25,000 or 26,000.
“We had a fantastic time and it was great to see more than 20,000 were there for them again the other week when they beat Southampton.
“It will be a great day for me. I have not played against them much since I have left and I am really looking forward to it.”
United, who face Spurs in the Capital One Cup semi-finals next month following their 1-0 victory over Ronald Koeman’s side, have found league results much harder to come by in recent weeks. Fifth in the table, they travel to Staffordshire searching for their first win in the competition since November 15.
Brown, who joined Vale during the close season, has only faced United three times after being lured to the capital with two of those meetings, for Fulham and Portsmouth, ending in defeat.
Although his agreement with the hosts is scheduled to expire at the end of the campaign, it contains a clause which could tie him to the club for a further 12 months.
“I would love to do that,” Brown, who also coaches Vale’s reserve team, continued. “It is 35 or 40 minutes from my home and it is not a financial thing, it is about playing football.
“So, if the club would like to do that I would certainly like to get it sorted.
“It has been great here. I have done a bit of coaching as well, there is a good group of players and I really enjoy going into work.
“I had a bit of a difficult start because I had a few niggly injuries in pre-season and didn’t get going. But you have to bide your time and I knew I would get my chance.
“I am getting a little run in the team and am thoroughly enjoying it.”
Although Chris Lines is available for selection after serving a three match ban, Brown’s performance during Vale’s 2-1 win at Crawley Town could persuade manager Robert Page, another former United player, to name the former Sheffield Wednesday player on the bench.
“Whatever age you are, if you have a hunger, desire and enthusiasm for the game then you can still play,” Page said. “Once you have that fire burning in your belly then you can keep putting in performances like Michael did there.”
United have returned an average of exactly one point per game from their previous seven outings in the competition and Nigel Clough, who praised Page’s contribution during his media briefing at Bramall Lane earlier this week, acknowledged they would have to be “on top” of their game to improve that figure by triumphing at Vale Park.
“Rob has done a good job there,” Clough , the United manager, said. “He’s tightened things up quite considerably and we know that they are going to be right up for this game because, like most of the grounds we go to, it will be probably their biggest of the season.
“That’s something we have to recognise and be ready for.”
Clough, who excused his players from training and travelling yesterday, is set to be without Ryan Flynn (hamstring) but full-back Craig Alcock could return after recovering from a back complaint. Paddy McCarthy plays the penultimate match of his loan from Crystal Palace with a decision on the central defender’s future set to be finalised shortly.
Meanwhile, United have appointed Graham Moore as vice-president.
Moore, chairman of Westfield Health, accepted the post earlier this month.
“Graham and Westfield enjoy a long association with the club,” Kevin McCabe, United’s co-owner, said. “We are delighted to have someone with Graham’s enthusiasm, experience, contacts and knowledge of the city coming on board.”
Moore added: “I am looking forward to playing my part alongside others at the club in maximising its engagement with the local community where it has such a rich heritage as a sporting organisation in the city.”