Brown targets Sunderland starting place

Manchester City's Edin Dzeko, left, fights for the ball with Sunderland's Wes Brown.
Manchester City's Edin Dzeko, left, fights for the ball with Sunderland's Wes Brown.

WES BROWN is ready for a fight to secure a spot in Sunderland’s starting XI this season.

Brown’s return to fitness has been one of the biggest plus points of Sunderland’s pre-season campaign after the former England international missed the whole of last season through a knee injury which looked to have ended his career.

The 33-year-old started both of Sunderland’s encounters in the Barclays Asia Trophy last week alongside John O’Shea and that pair looks the likeliest central defensive combination to start the Premier League campaign.

But with Brown now available again, Sunderland head coach Paolo Di Canio is not short on options at the heart of the back four.

Bosman arrivals Valentin Roberge and Modibo Diakite are both in the frame - albeit the latter missed the Asia Trophy through injury – while Carlos Cuellar is also in contention.

Yet Brown insists the competition is healthy, as he looks to make his first competitive appearance since injuring his knee against Middlesbrough in January, 2012.

Brown told the Echo: “We’ve made good signings at centre-half.

“I’ve seen them play and trained with them so it’s going to be good competition, but I’ve always said that you need that.

“They are good lads as well, so we help each other and watch how each other plays.

“Whoever plays, the others will try to support him in any way whatsoever.”

Brown completed almost three hours of game-time in Sunderland’s two Asia Trophy encounters against Tottenham and Manchester City – particularly heartening for him given the condition of the Hong Kong Stadium pitch.

The former Manchester United man acknowledges it will be a completely different scenario when Sunderland face Premier League sides on a competitive basis.

But Brown says it will have benefited Sunderland’s fitness to tackle quality performers at this tender stage of the campaign.

“It’s a bit different playing Premier League sides at this stage of the season,” he added.

“It’s probably everyone’s first or second game and it’s not as quick or physical as it would be in a normal season.

“But it’s a start, you know the players you’re playing against and it’s a chance to get your base.”