He's yet to fulfil his potential

Wes Brown is an excellent testament to Manchester United's youth system and was tipped for big things in his younger days. However, injuries have blighted his career, writes Andy Hampson.

An accomplished and experienced defender, Wes Brown was recently restored to the international scene under the new England manager, Fabio Capello, in spite of uncertainty surrounding his Manchester United future.

A home-grown product, Brown is an excellent testament to United's youth system and was tipped for big things in his younger days. However, injuries have blighted his career and consequently the United team has evolved without him. Unable to secure a consistent run in the side, he is now being linked with other clubs as his contract enters its final 18 months.

Brown was born in the Longsight area of Manchester and signed forms as a trainee with United in July 1996. He won the FA Youth Cup and broke into the first team towards the end of the 1997-98 season, making his debut as a substitute against Leeds.

He began to make A name for himself the following season, showing superb tackling ability and a fine awareness of the game while appearing in a number of matches as either right-back or centre-half. England recognition came before the end of the season and glory followed Brown as United won their famous treble - the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup.

It was in 1999-2000, however, that injuries started to bite and Brown rarely seems to have played a full season since. He has always come back strongly, and at times earned widespread praise, but the overwhelming feeling is that his potential has not truly been realised. Only towards the end of the 2006-07 season did he pass the landmark of 250 club appearances. He has also accumulated far fewer England caps than anticipated a decade ago.

The 2005-06 season was one of Brown's best in the United side but his return to form could not earn him a place in England's World Cup squad.

Chances were more limited last season as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic formed a solid central defensive partnership but Brown still finished the campaign with a fourth EPL winners' medal.

On the international front, Brown played for England at youth level and travelled to the 2002 World Cup with the senior squad. He earned a place in Capello's first squad for a friendly with Switzerland this month after shining at right-back.

Brown lives with long-term partner Leanne Wassell. Together they have had two daughters, Halle and Lilia.

Injuries have been the bane of Brown's career. His first serious problems came before the 1999-00 season when he suffered knee ligament damage. He ended up missing the entire season and the same problem hampered him again at the end of the 2002-03 campaign, not long after he had returned from a broken ankle.

Since then he has not produced his best consistently. There have been a number of fine performances, but at times they have been few and far between and further injuries have continually prevented him building up momentum.

When Brown made his name in 1998-99, it was noted that he was still turning up for training in a Nissan Micra while his illustrious teammates arrived in flashy sports cars. Times have changed since then and Brown's most recent vehicle, a BMW X5, turned up for sale in the Auto Trader magazine last autumn. The 2001 4.4-litre V8 Sport, which did 0-60mph in 7.5 seconds and had a top speed of 137mph, was available for GBP14,995.

FACTFILE Name: Position: Defender Club: Manchester United DOB: 25/02/81 England Caps: 16 England Goals: 0 England debut: v Hungary, April 1999 Moment to remember

Brown produced one of his best displays in Manchester United’s 2004 semifinal victory over Arsenal. After missing the first half of the season, he delivered a performance that earned him huge praise from Sir Alex Ferguson. “The most naturally gifted defender in England,” the manager said.

Moment to forget

One of Brown’s worst moments on a football field came on the final day of the 2002-03 season. Brown damaged his cruciate ligament 40 minutes into the game against Everton and did not play again until midway through the following year.

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