Wes Brown has never been a celebrity player for Manchester United.
For a player rubbing shoulders with the likes of Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney, and Ryan Giggs for an entire career, it is very difficult to make a mark.
Brown, however, has always been an important player in his own right for United and over the years has put in some good shifts for England.
Brown's talent has never really been in question. Indeed, many feel that he was United's best player for the latter half of the 2007-08 romp which brought them Premier League and Champions League success, and still many United fans feel that the best back four to pick from the current squad includes Brown at right back, even though he professes to prefer being central.
No one is going to claim he has the world-class defensive talent of John Terry, Patrice Evra, or Daniel Alves, but he does not try to do so. He is very much a great athlete with a no-nonsense style of defending, and for United and England that is all he needs to produce.
It is much to Brown's credit that United have coped with their disastrous defensive injury crisis this season. With the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Gary Neville, Rafael, and Rio Ferdinand all out at various points, he has been almost omnipresent in their defensive lineup since returning in October.
Yes, United have lost the defensive solidarity that they had last season, and yes, they have certainly missed Rio and Vida, but next to the youthful Jonny Evans, Brown has been more than capable of covering for them.
Their position in the League, as well as their victory at Wembley and their continuing mission in the Champions League, is much down to their capable backups—such as Brown.
Yet it is not just United who have reaped the rewards of Brown's ability. Fabio Capello named Brown as his first right-back when he took the job and in the absence of Glen Johnson had no hesitation in naming him again against Egypt.
He was rewarded with a competent display which very much demonstrated Brown's defensive ability, even if he was a little slack in attack (although it must be said that this improved when Shaun Wright-Phillips replaced the ineffective Theo Walcott).
Brown is widely believed to have booked his place in South Africa and has every chance of being England's No. 1 right-back—Johnson is also currently injured and has been widely criticized for his defensive abilities, even if his attacking play far outstrips Brown's.
His career has always been hampered, unfortunately, by a seemingly endless succession of injuries. Indeed, almost immediately after breaking into the team in 1998 he was hit by a year-long injury absence. Since his return in 2000, Brown has become a regular name for United fans to see in the lineup, but he has still missed long periods—he missed almost all of the 2008-09 season after breaking a bone in his foot.
You almost have to feel sorry for the man whom Sir Alex Ferguson once described as "without question, the best natural defender this club has had for years." Who knows how much of an impact he could have had were it not for the stream of injuries hampering his development and forcing him out of crucial games?
This curse seemed to have struck again after a challenge with Matt Jarvis of Wolves forced him off the pitch wearing a protective boot.
So the initial fears of United and England fans will have been soothed by the news that he is only out for about a month. The "official" figure seems to be four to six weeks, but personally I have every confidence that he will back soon and demonstrating why, despite having never gained any real recognition, he is integral to both United and England.
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