Wes Brown: ‘I really liked playing for Kerala Blasters’

The former Manchester United defender played for Kerala Blasters last year but is not part of David James’ new-look squad for the 2018-19 season.

Former Manchester United football player Wes Brown says he enjoyed the experience of playing for Kerala Blasters.   -  Special Arrangement

With the 2018-19 Indian Super League season just days away from kick-off, Kerala Blasters has decided to ditch its marquee signing policy which didn't pay dividends in the previous campaign.

While David James, who came in as a replacement for Rene Meulensteen in January, fell foul with Dimitar Berbatov, he relied on the experience of Wes Brown as Blasters tried to stage a turnaround. The former Manchester United defender proved integral in the Blasters revival as the team accumulated 18 points out of a possible 33, missing out on a playoff place by five points. In the eleven matches since James' takeover, Brown did not miss a single minute of action.

READ: Mohanlal to become co-owner of Kerala Blasters soon

The former England international, however, is not part of James' new-look squad as the team bids for its first ISL title.

Sportstar caught up with the Stretford End favourite to talk about his stint in Indian football with the Blasters, his Manchester United days, the 1998-99 treble-winning season and more...

Excerpts:

How would you describe your experience with Kerala Blasters?

I really enjoyed it. I wish it would have been a little bit better, but the experience I had was brilliant. I mean, our fans were fantastic. I really enjoyed my time here. I had some friends who lived with me – Dimitar Berbatov and Paul Rachubka. That made it a little bit easy settling in, being away from home. I really liked playing in the games. And I would like to come back again.

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What's your take on the young Indian players you have come across during your time with the Blasters?

They are really good. Sahal (Abdul Samad) and Deep (Deependra Negi), they play in midfield for the Kerala Blasters, have impressed in training. They are going to be definitely there in the future. They need to keep practising all the time but they will definitely be the names in the near future.

You were with Manchester United for 14 seasons as a first team player and were part of many successful squads. Do you see any similarities in the current squad under Mourinho which could make them successful?

If Sir Alex Ferguson wants to make a change to a side then he will change it. He will make sure the squad was strong in all departments and I am sure that’s what Mourinho is trying to do now. I am not just talking about the XI on the pitch, but the squad in general. So, at any time, another player could come in and do the same job, maybe not as good but doing it nonetheless. That’s the difficult part of it — to get the right people in to do those jobs.

READ | Indian youngsters have improved, says David James

What was it about Alex Ferguson's man-management approach that continued to bring out the best in players?

He was brilliant for me from such a young age when I was there. He will always speak to you and if he wanted something different from you then he wouldn't just tell you, he would have a talk about it and get your point of view out. He would shout at you during the game if it wasn't going too well, but he would compliment you a lot of times as well, which helps. But people just see the ‘hairdryer’* side of him.

*The phrase ‘Hairdryer treatment’ is used to describe the times Ferguson shouted at his players at close quarters.

If Sir Alex Ferguson wants to make a change to a side then he will change it. He will make sure the squad was strong in all departments and I am sure that’s what Mourinho is trying to do now.

During the 1998-99 treble-winning season, you were a youngster breaking into the first team. How did the season pan out from your point of view?

I probably didn't take it in as much as I should have since it was my first full season at the club. And it was just a matter of game after game where we were winning and winning. We were in the FA Cup final, top of the league and the Champions League final - it was hard. Now, when I look back, if we had thought about it (the treble) a lot, the outcome might have been a little bit different. But when we got to that stage, we were just focussed on winning the next game. We had a brilliant squad at that time with some great players. The final (Champions League) was one of the most nerve-wracking things I had ever witnessed, but at the same time, it was brilliant. In the end, it all worked out. He had built that team over the years just to get to that point. It doesn't happen a lot of times.

On what point did the players get the feeling that they could achieve the treble?

I think everyone had a similar mentality. Even when we were getting beaten (during a game) and when the opposition was playing well, we knew that we would still get a chance and win the game. I don't know how we thought of that but you ask everyone (from that squad) and they would say the same. It’s probably why it made things so dramatic.

The rivalry between Manchester United and Arsenal and their managers Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger proved to be a landmark moment in English football. What was it like to be a United player during that time?

I loved it! You sort of needed (such) a team, where two sides were just as good as each other. It wasn't just the players who were rivals, but also the managers. There were a few mind games here and there which made it better. They were the kind of games where the manager got you looking for just that little bit more; it was so important to win. A little bit of concentration loss and the game would be lost, so we were always up for it a lot more (against Arsenal).

The writer was in Bengaluru on an invite from Uber.

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