WES BROWN says he was always confident that his first-team return would be more than a temporary measure.
Brown made his 20th appearance of the season for Sunderland in last weekend’s draw with Crystal Palace after shaking off the knock which kept him out of the FA Cup quarter-final defeat at Hull City six days earlier.
Former Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio said during the summer that he would be happy if Brown was able to play 10 games this season after the 34-year-old had been sidelined with a knee injury since January 2012.
But, although Brown has to take a cautious approach with his training regime, the ex-England international has proved to be an integral figure in Sunderland’s resurgence and battle for survival.
Brown told the Echo: “It’s been good. I’ve obviously had a few knocks here and there and I maybe don’t train every day.
“But it’s been great for me to play so many games.
“I’ve tried to focus on being ready for the weekend and that’s been the main thing really.
“I always thought I was going to be alright – it was everyone else who didn’t!
“I came back pretty much fit at the start of the season, if I’m being honest. I know I was out all of last season, but I came in during the summer.
“Pre-season was really hard and I managed to get through all of it and I think that was a good start.
“In previous seasons, I’d never really had that full pre-season.”
Brown’s partnership with former Manchester United team-mate John O’Shea has been key to Sunderland’s improvement under Gus Poyet, with the Black Cats registering their seventh clean sheet in 17 league games against Palace last Saturday.
And Brown believes that defensive solidity will be key for Sunderland if they are to beat the drop, particularly as Poyet’s men continue to struggle at the other end of the pitch.
“Obviously, I’ve known John for many years and we’ve got a good understanding,” added Brown, who is focusing on Saturday’s vital trip to relegation rivals Norwich City.
“If any partnership plays together for so long, you get that.
“Our main goal is to try to not let any goals in and as long as we can do that, we’ve got a chance.
“If we can keep it strong at the back and nick a couple up front, that would be great.
“The five of us at the back do have a little chat before the game and sort of say what we’re going to do.
“We know if we can keep it tight, there’s every possibility that we can score.
“That’s what we set out to do every game.
“This season is all about staying in this league now and that’s what we’ve got to concentrate on.”