STEVE Bruce has hailed Sunderland’s Wes Brown as one of the best English centre-backs of the modern era after the former Manchester United man produced a superb debut display at Liverpool.
The defender gave a man-of-the-match performance for the Black Cats in their 1-1 draw at Anfield, where Sebastian Larsson’s equaliser earned his side a hard-fought point.
It could have been much worse earlier on as Sunderland were put under a great deal of pressure in the first half and were thankful for the cool, experienced head of Brown’s to keep the glue intact.
Sunderland had persisted for a long time during the summer to capture the former Manchester United player’s signature and their patience paid off as he put in a sublime shift at Anfield, where he effectively had ex-Newcastle striker Andy Carroll in his back pocket.
Blakc Cats manager Bruce said: “Wes Brown showed what a great defender he will be for us. Wes rolled back the years. He is arguably one of the best natural English centre-halves we have had.
“He has not played, he has been injured. (Nemanja) Vidic and (Rio) Ferdinand have done well so we have managed to get him. That’s his first game for months. If he stays fit and we get (John) O’Shea back then we will be better than last season.
“Wes is as tough as they come. That experience of playing against an old-fashioned centre-forward is sometimes needed, he had it and it showed. He dropped off when needed and attacked the ball when needed.
“We also have Anton (Ferdinand), (Michael) Turner and Titus (Bramble), who have been out. It is important we have competition. We are getting there and I am happy with that.”
The main talking point was the penalty Liverpool received in five minutes, with many feeling that Kieran Richardson’s foul on Luis Suarez should have seen the Sunderland left-back heading for an early bath.
Bruce disagreed. He added: “I thought the ref got it spot on. On another day it could be a red card. It was going away from goal.
“I didn’t think it was a red card because I thought Suarez knocked it too far and it was clumsy from Kieran. I didn’t think he needed to make the challenge.
“He had knocked it too far and I didn’t think he would score from there. On another day it could have been a red card but we don’t want to see them because it spoils the spectacle.” A much-improved second half display saw Sunderland come into the game more and grab a deserved point, which was largely down to midfield duo Lee Cattermole (pictured right) and Jack Colback upping their levels and Bruce stated he gave the pair a starting role as reward for their part in helping the club finish 10th last season.
He continued: “Cattermole has had a pre-season under his belt for the first time in four years, Jack did fantastically well for me last season, so I was not going to kick him in the teeth. I had to stay loyal to the lads who got us to tenth last year.
“If I made five six or seven changes at once then it would be difficult.”