Wes Brown could turn out to be the bargain of the season

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

DESPITE suggestions to the contrary, it has emerged that Sunderland did only pay £1m for Wes Brown.

When it was confirmed in early July that the defender had moved from Manchester United, the biggest talking point was the length of his contract – not the size of fee.

He turns 32 in October, meaning that at the end of his four-year deal he will be 36 – a gamble, it could be argued, given the player's injury record.

But if there were Sunderland supporters doubting the judgement of manager Steve Bruce, Brown's debut at Anfield on Saturday should have gone some way to winning those over.

Considering that Olympique Lyonnais initially wanted eight times the figure paid for Brown for John Mensah, Bruce looks to have pulled off an absolute masterstroke.

The 31-year-old may have not got the recognition he has deserved in more than a decade at Old Trafford. Injuries have played their part, but so have the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Jaap Stam, Laurent Blanc and even Gary Neville, who have also slotted in to cover or replace the man from Longsight, Manchester.

But to have once been labelled the 'best natural defender' at United by Sir Alex Ferguson, Brown clearly has the ability and there was plenty of evidence at Anfield to suggest he is going to be around for some time yet.

And by displaying a sharpness of mind to make the right decisions in dealing with Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, it is conceivable that he will turn out to be one of the buys of the season on Wearside – even beyond.

Initially it was thought Brown was costing in the region of £4m, as part of a £12m triple deal that would also have included Darron Gibson as well as John O'Shea.

Instead, though, Sunderland landed Brown for just £1m. In the modern game, such a fee would normally be paid out for his experience alone.

He has won two Champions Leagues, five Premier Leagues, two FA Cups, two League Cups and he has been to a World Cup finals with England.

At Sunderland he has the defensive talent that could make him a hero for years to come; becoming the main man at the heart of Sunderland's defence following years of effectively playing back up to Ferdinand and Vidic.

Liverpool found out to their cost that Brown still has the hunger and desire to deliver on the big stage after a series of injuries – and Bruce will have toasted his bargain buy with a nice glass of wine on Saturday night.

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