AFTER years spent cheering on Sunderland's heroes from the terraces, Chris Brown is now winning fans of his own.

The former season ticket holder, whose father Alan also played for the club, idolised Kevin Phillips.

Brown draws more comparisons with Niall Quinn than he does with the diminutive front man now plying his trade with Southampton, but he certainly possesses some of the latter's skill on the ground.

Saturday's victory at QPR saw him come off the bench to notch his second goal in successive games since signing a two-year deal at the club, something boss Mick McCarthy believes has been instrumental in the 20-year-old hitting the heights recently.

"He is a young lad. He missed a year of his career with a cruciate ligament injury," said McCarthy. "When he came back he looked like he was struggling.

"He went down to Doncaster and that had a positive affect, playing with Dave Penney and Mickey Walker, who looked after him and helped him. He has come back here and he has improved.

"We started talking about his contract in October and never got done and I don't think it helped him.

"But since it has been signed I think he has settled down, he looks a bit more confident. He's got a bit of comfort now from the fact that he's signed his contract and he is a Sunderland first team player."

While having to settle for a place on the bench, Brown can take satisfaction from the fact that he is preventing £5m man Michael Bridges from seeing any action.

"Marcus (Stewart) and Stevie Elliott have been the best pairing all season, and the gaffer has told us that," said a level-headed Brown. "I'm just delighted to be involved at the minute.

"There is nothing better than coming on and scoring one of the winning goals and I have got to be as happy as the rest of the lads.

"I would like to start games, obviously, but I have got to accept that those two have scored more than ten goals this season and have been the best two for the club, so I have no complaints."

If Brown is one of Sunderland's up-and-coming crop of young guns, then Julio Arca, at 24, must be verging on veteran status.

The Argentine's experience has been a key factor in the club's success this season and McCarthy has acknowleged how important it was to tie him to Wearside.

Playing at left back on Saturday with George McCartney out injured, Arca wrapped up victory when he tapped home after Marcus Stewart had initially been denied.

"I, we, the club went out on a limb to sign him and make sure he stayed and if ever decisions have affected us this season that is certainly one of them because he is terrific," the boss said.

McCarthy also singled out Gary Breen for praise. After an indifferent first half, the Irishman came good in the second period and was an important component in the overall triumph.

"I picked him for 50 internationals so I couldn't really put any more faith in him, could I?" McCarthy said when asked what he thought of his captain.

"That was a big game this afternoon. We played dreadfully in the first half as a team.

"I think he as a person is relishing these games and it looks like he has taken a bit more responsibility on, even more than he has already. He has been excellent."

* Brian Deane missed out on a place on the bench on Saturday after picking up a knock in training.

"He got kicked in training and his calf stiffened up," said McCarthy.

"I wasn't going to risk putting him on the bench, which is were his possible slot would have been. He will be fine."

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