The Ex-Files

Friday 18 January 2013 14:30

If Michael Brown has one regret in his career, it’s leaving Fulham after just 18 months at the Club.

The combative midfielder had joined the Whites from Tottenham Hotspur in January 2006. But, after making more than 40 appearances, Brown, Club Captain at the time, opted to head for pastures new in Wigan Athletic in July 2007.

“I loved my time at Fulham,” he told the official website. “We had a great group of lads and Chris Coleman was a fantastic manager and a fantastic person. We all got on great. We had a hiccup after Christmas and results didn’t go our way and Chris went. It was a shame to break up what we had.

“It wasn’t that I wanted to leave in 2007, it was more geographical. Me and my wife wanted to start a family and her family were in the North-West area. Wigan came knocking and it was very much a family decision. I was Captain at Fulham and very much enjoying it but it was in my best interests to go.

“Fulham offered me another contract but I decided to head back to the North-West. It’s one of my regrets and I do wonder sometimes if I was right to leave. But you can’t look back and I’ve had some great times since.”

It had all started for Brown at Fulham’s opponents on Saturday, Manchester City, where he was handed his debut for the club in 1995 by the late Alan Ball in a Premier League clash at the age of 17.

“I was very young and was playing well in the youth team,” recalled Brown. “The first team weren’t doing so well and I kind of got fast-tracked into the squad. I got a chance and did okay.

“I played quite a lot that season which was fantastic. Alan was the manager and he gave me a chance. It was a great club and to be at that age and go from nowhere to the first team was pretty special.

“It’s a very different club to what it is now. Back then City had ups and downs every single season, but where they find themselves now and to win the league last year is fantastic. The City fans deserve it. They’ve always had great gates; even when we were in what’s now League One, we were still getting 27,000 through the turnstiles. They’ve stuck by the club and they deserve that success.”

It was certainly something of a rollercoaster ride for Brown at City. In the season he made his debut, the club were relegated. And things got worse when they dropped down into what is now League One two years later.

But an incredible Play-Off Final victory over Gillingham kick-started City’s rise back through the ranks and – eventually – a Premier League title win last term.

“The Gillingham game was unbelievable,” he mused. “To be 2-0 down and then make it 2-2 in the 92nd and 94th minute was just unreal. We went on to win on penalties and it was an amazing day. There were still a few hiccups before they got where they are now. But it’s still never simple at City and they had to leave it to the last minute of the last day to get the title!”

Brown left City in December 1999 for Sheffield United, where his stock would continue to rise.

“Joe Royle was the City boss and had made his mind up that I wasn’t really for him,” said Brown. “But when we were struggling a bit in League One he had to throw me in. We didn’t really lose a game and won promotion but at the start of the next season he binned me off again.

“So I moved on and went to Sheffield United and that was that really. I wasn’t for Joe, we didn’t really see eye to eye and you move on. It was a shame as I really enjoyed it at the time but you want to play football. But it’s been great ever since and looking back I’m very pleased with how things have gone overall.”

Fast forward a few years and Brown found himself at Tottenham Hotspur where a certain Martin Jol was manager.

A lack of first-team chances would lead to his move to Fulham, but Brown harbours no grudges towards current Fulham gaffer Jol.

“Martin didn’t want to let me go,” recalled Brown. “The deal from Fulham was on the table but he told me I was part of his squad. But I explained to him I wanted to play regularly. He was a fantastic guy and a great manager and he understood it was a chance for me to play games.

“I was sitting on the bench at Spurs and they were bringing in more and more players in every transfer window.”

After leaving Fulham, Brown spent two years at both Wigan and Portsmouth before arriving at Leeds United in July 2011.

And, despite his advancing years, he shows no signs of slowing down at Elland Road.

He said: “It’s a big club, hopefully at some point they’ll be back in the Premier League. I’m 36 next week and I’m enjoying every minute I get on the pitch.

“I want to play as long as I can. Maybe I’m a bit ambitious but I’d love to be playing league football at 40. If I can do that, I’d take it. But if not, then I’ve had a fantastic career. It will be sad when that day does come when I have to hang up my boots, though.”

As for Saturday’s encounter between two of his former sides, Brown admits it’s hard to predict anything but a City win.

“City are heavy favourites but Fulham have got some great players and I’m sure they’ll give them a game,” he stated. “Martin knows how to get his teams going and it’ll be a tough game for City. Looking at it, you’d say City should win but you never know in football.”