• No split loyalties from former Manchester United defender
• Brown praises 'brilliant' impact of new manager Gus Poyet
• In praise of Wes Brown
Wes Brown's past may be bound up with Manchester United but the Sunderland centre-back had no compunction about playing a key role in denying his former club a place in the League Cup final.
"I don't feel any sympathy for Manchester United at all," said the 34-year-old. "I'm a Sunderland fan now. Obviously I'm a United fan as well but we're playing them so I'm Sunderland all the way."
Brown and his new team were never supposed to go to Wembley this season. After being sidelined with serious knee trouble for almost two years the former England defender was advised to accept medical advice and retire last summer.
By early autumn though a defiant Brown was close to a thoroughly unexpected first team comeback but, by then, the chaos surrounding Paolo Di Canio's doomed managerial reign and the former director of football Roberto De Fanti's flawed recruitment policy had plunged Sunderland into a relegation battle they remain embroiled in.
"Back in September I could not imagine this club would be going to a Wembley final, and that's the honest truth," acknowledged Brown. "If you'd asked in September if there was a chance of us being in a final, nobody here would have said 'yes'. We've come such a long way since then. We're a strong bunch of lads and hopefully we can just keep this going now in the league."
If Brown's return to action was integral to Sunderland's slow rebirth, Gus Poyet's appointment as Di Canio's successor has re-ignited a sense of cautious optimism on Wearside.
"Gus has been brilliant," said Brown. "He's on everyone's side. He helps everyone. We know what he wants and that's what we try and do. He changes things at times to see how we react to it and we reacted brilliantly against Manchester United. We have some great and talented players. When we play well you can see that on the pitch. The lads are buzzing and I hope all our supporters are too."
Like Poyet, Brown knows all the euphoria will evaporate swiftly should an alarmingly inconsistent Sunderland – still stuck in the relegation zone – fail to beat Stoke City at the Stadium of Light in the Premier League next Wednesday and then lose the derby at Newcastle United on Saturday week. Even so, he would not be human if he did not allow himself the luxury of looking forward to a final against his one time local rivals.
"Obviously it will be nice for me to play against Manchester City," Brown admits. "But regardless of who it is we'd just like to go to Wembley and win the game now. It would be great for the club."