WES BROWN is happy to take a backwards step from Sunderland’s starting XI – if the Black Cats continue to savour the taste of victory.
The partnership of ex-Manchester United duo John O’Shea and Brown has been Gus Poyet’s first-choice central defensive double act, since the latter returned from an injury-stricken 17-month spell on the sidelines almost a year ago.
But, with Brown absent for last month’s draw against Swansea with a minor calf problem, fellow defender Santiago Vergini impressed alongside O’Shea and kept his place there for Sunderland’s victory over Stoke City 12 days ago.
Brown, now fully fit again, was left on the bench against Stoke, yet with Sunderland recording their first victory of the campaign, the 35-year-old is content to bide his time over a first-team recall.
The former England international told the Echo: “Whatever the gaffer wants to do, I’m more than happy to go along with that.
“Sheasy is the skipper and has been playing well, as has Santi.
“I try to play every game, but it was just one of those where I had a sore calf.
“Nothing was pulled, but I could have played and made it worse, or rested it and got it back to where it is today, which is fine.
“The lads have gone out and we’ve got the points.
“From my point of view, I’m more than happy to get the points on the board.
“Santi’s playing so well, that it’s going to be difficult to take him out.
“I’ve got no problem with that.
“If we can win another game with that back four, that would be brilliant. I’ll be ready when needed.”
Brown may not have to wait too long on the sidelines, with question marks over both Vergini and Billy Jones for Saturday’s trip to Southampton.
Jones limped off during a training game against Middlesbrough last week, while Vergini has faced a 5,000-mile return trip from the Far East after Argentina’s 7-0 friendly win against Hong Kong on Tuesday.
If Vergini is handed a breather at St Mary’s, it will end his streak of eight successive starts in all competitions after he was ineligible for the opening day draw at West Brom.
During that run, the 26-year-old has demonstrated his improvement in his second loan spell at the Stadium of Light after experiencing inevitable teething problems when he first arrived at Sunderland in the January window.
“Santi has had a long trip international-wise, but he would have been really happy to get back in the (Argentina) squad,” said Brown.
“I’m sure the gaffer will have a word with him, and hopefully Sheasy comes back fully fit as well.
“Obviously Santi came as a centre-half in January and the gaffer put him at right-back when we were struggling for one.
“But I think he’s done brilliant.
“He gets forward, he defends, he attacks the ball and he’s fitted in really well.
“There’s been absolutely no problem with him.
“He’s a big lad and maybe his first couple of games – like anyone would do – it takes a bit of time.
“But it’s a new season, he knows what it’s about now and, as everyone can see, he’s ready to go.”
If and when Gus Poyet is forced to make changes though, Brown believes the understanding and organisation in Sunderland’s back four now ensures that there is a seamless transition between defensive combinations.
That has been evidenced by only Southampton conceding fewer Premier League goals than Sunderland in the opening seven games.
“I think, first of all, they’re all good lads and, secondly, they all understand what the gaffer wants,” added Brown.
“As long as we do that as a back four, we all know where to mark, passing on runners, talking.
“Once you get that sorted, you try to let in as few goals as possible.
“Swapping isn’t that big of an issue, as long as everyone knows what they are doing.”