For former Manchester United and Sunderland defenders John O’Shea and Wes Brown their careers in the game have followed an almost identical trajectory.
As young players at United, the duo worked their way into the Old Trafford first team, becoming reliable senior figures at the club, winning everything there is to win from Premier League titles to European Cups.
The duo even departed the Red Devils at the same time, joining Sunderland and helping the Black Cats stave off relegation for a handful of seasons, before Brown’s departure for Blackburn lead to their eventual split – after nearly 17 seasons in the same team.
“We’re good mates, begins Brown, speaking to Pundit Arena.
“Defending-wise, we pretty much knew how each other played from being at Man United and then going to Sunderland as well. That was the easy part and luckily we got on off the pitch. Being mates made it a lot easier.
“We’ve had fantastic years together and obviously we’ve had some difficult years, being at Sunderland at the time. We managed to get through it and now he’s doing his thing coaching, which is brilliant.”
The pair have since retired from the game, with over 1000 senior club appearances between them with O’Shea going into coaching at Reading and Brown working with his coaching program and as a Manchester United ambassador.
Both players grew into leaders at Old Trafford and retained that mantle when they moved to Sunderland, and Brown outlined that he always felt O’Shea would make a very good coach.
“I do think he will make a good coach. I’ve always said that he should definitely try it, because he’s got the right personality.
“He knows the game, he’s won a lot of trophies as well. He’s learnt off some of the best managers and we’ve had a lot of managers, different types of managers, and that’s the way he should go.”
Although two of United’s best servants of the past two decades, O’Shea and Brown are rarely spoken about in the upper-echelon of superstars to have played for the club.
Other players may have often grabbed the headlines, but Brown feels that he and O’Shea were vital cogs in a winning group and knew exactly what it meant to play for a club like Manchester United.
“Listen, you’ve got the superstars at Man United. It’s a fantastic club and you’ll always have your superstars, but the likes of myself and Sheasy — we know what it’s about. We know what we’re doing, we know what we’re there for — and that’s to win.
“There was a group of lads there together and there was no moaning, no friction. Obviously you’ll have your battles on the pitch sometimes, but ultimately there was only one goal and that was winning trophies. That’s what everyone understood.”
Throughout his time at United, Brown primarily played as a centre-back while also filling in at right-back when required. O’Shea on the other hand, played in almost every position on the pitch during his Red Devils career – even famously filling in in goal during a victory over Tottenham.
Brown outlined that O’Shea’s versatility and consistency made him an excellent asset to any club he played for.
“Sheasy could play anywhere,” Brown says. “He could be left back, centre-back, right back, left wing-back, right wing-back, centre midfield, holding midfield, in goals too. He was very versatile and I think you always need those sort of players in your team.
“That’s why he did so well at the club, because when he was needed, he played well. You could never say he ever had a bad patch where he wasn’t doing well. He was always decent.”
Wes Brown, Emile Heskey, Jack Byrne and Shane Supple were at the Sport Ireland Campus today to help launch a new season of action on the eir sport pack. eir sport viewers can watch every game in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League plus UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers on Virgin Media Sport, which is now part of the eir sport pack, as well as live FA Cup games, SSE Airtricity League games & the Republic of Ireland’s U21 Home Qualifiers.