When Sunderland were linked with John O’Shea and Wes Brown in 2011, it felt like a massive coup.
The duo were stalwarts at Old Trafford and firmly engrained in the ‘Manchester United way’ under Sir Alex Ferguson. It was the kind of double signing that we hoped would move Sunderland up the league - two proven winners with a history of playing in big games.
It was also vital for Steve Bruce, who was trying to build a new team, with an array of new signings joining the club. This was, in part, an attempt to make up for the loss of Darren Bent, whose departure in early 2011 almost derailed our season.
More recently, Brown has admitted that the arrival of O’Shea was a factor in making the move to the North East, and he confessed to panicking when the Irishman didn’t turn up to sign, thinking that he had a change of heart.
I knew I wasn’t going to play and part of me was saying to stay but it’s funny because the same sort of thing was happening with John O’Shea.
So we had a little chat and I remember Sunderland wanted both of us and we decided it was time to go. I’ll never forget it, I signed the day before John but we were supposed to sign on the same day and I phoned him up asking him where he is.
He said, ‘oh I’m not sure now.’ It absolutely killed me.
Then he came and signed the next day!
Nevertheless, sign he did and it looked like the pair would be brilliant additions.
For Brown in particular, injuries unfortunately marred his progression and his regularity of starts throughout his time at the club. The Mancunian spent five years at Sunderland and only notched up 76 appearances during that time.
Having said that, Brown is remembered fondly on Wearside as someone who displayed defensive solidity of the highest quality on many occasions, and as a player who was clearly a cut above some of his teammates.
Furthermore, he has mentioned how he found the atmosphere in the Sunderland dressing room extremely different to the one at Old Trafford, and how he felt obliged to take on a leadership role as a result.
It was a little bit different because we were very respected in the sense we were at Manchester United and had won quite a lot.
We had to step up and take the reins a little bit and tried to sort out any issues in the changing room, and eventually John became captain.
At times, Wes was a colossus, displaying incredible strength, calmness and experience. Games such as Liverpool away on his debut and QPR at Loftus Road were prime examples of him showing his quality.
On the other hand, he also brought us some comical moments, and when he was sent off at Old Trafford instead of O’Shea, the reaction he received from both sets of fans showed the high regard he was held in.
In later years, Brown spoke about his admiration for the club and how much he enjoyed his time on Wearside.
Sunderland was a great club, [it was] a great five years.
It was good. I’ll tell you why it was good. From the first season, we were in a relegation battle, and looking back I’m gutted we were in that position, but the experience was fantastic.
I’ve seen one side [of football] where you know you’re challenging for the championship. Then you go to Sunderland where you’re pretty sure if you don’t make new signings you’ll struggle.
In hindsight, we were quite lucky to secure the services of a player like Brown. His time at Sunderland is fondly remembered by most fans, even if we rue the fact that we didn’t get to see him in the red and white stripes as often as we possibly would’ve liked.
Happy Birthday, Wes!