CHRIS BROWN may have grown up as an avid Sunderland fan, but his desire to turn over their North East rivals Middlesbrough this afternoon has nothing to do with boyhood affiliations.
There are several others in the Doncaster Rovers camp who you suspect might also have strong personal motivation to tame the Teessiders, namely James Coppinger and Rob Jones, who hail from the Boro-supporting strongholds of Guisborough and Stockton and former Riverside goalkeeper Ross Turnbull.
But you would be wrong. Truth be told, Rovers’ desire to achieve victory is a collective one and has everything to do with claiming some payback after the club’s televised shocker at the Riverside in November.
Rovers’ fans and players do not need reminding of how the hosts ran riot in a 4-0 thrashing, leaving the South Yorkshire outfit without a win on Teesside since February, 1952 and boasting just one victory in seven games against Boro in the Championship era.
The last in that sequence, labelled unacceptable by furious manager Paul Dickov, represented a black mark in Rovers’ on-pitch campaign, as Brown is the first to acknowledge.
Back in the autumn, Boro faced a Rovers team hit by selection problems, particularly in defence and coming off the back of a heavy 4-1 defeat at Reading. They were also looking over their shoulders as opposed to upwards following a run of just two victories in 10 games.
But this time around Dickov’s troops are in rude health on the back of a haul of seven points from their last nine – including 3-0 home wins over Charlton and Wigan.
Brown feels the head-turning victory over the Latics on January 18 could well represent a big turning point in the season for Rovers, bereft of confidence, form, numbers and options at the start of the new year.
Brown, who struck twice against Wigan, said: “It wasn’t good enough that night at Middlesbrough and I suppose we do owe them one.
“We spoke about that after the game and it is in the back of our minds, but you can’t forget they are on a good run as well.
“I think we’re due a win against them. I don’t think I’ve ever beaten them and, hopefully, it will change this weekend.
“People will agree that in the last three games we have looked a team who are together, a lot more organised and a threat going forward and not looking like conceding.
“But we’ve got to keep going; the more points we get as soon as possible, the better chance we’ve got.
“It’s a long season and you have to remember not to be too despondent when you have a bad time. It’s one of the best leagues in the world and you have to keep believing in yourselves and your team-mates that it will turn around and Wigan was, hopefully, a turning point for us.
“The last three games has sent a bit of a signal out to everybody. We’ve conceded one goal and are scoring goals now and playing some good football.”
Rovers’ renaissance has dovetailed with a personal upturn for striker Brown, in his second spell at the club after initially arriving on loan from Sunderland in 2003-04 when his goals helped fire the club to the old Division Three title under Dave Penney.
Brown, 29, whose father Alan is still fondly remembered by seasoned Rovers fans for a memorable stint at the club in the mid-Eighties that was cruelly ended by injury, hit three goals in January with many Keepmoat fans banking on his little-and-large partnership with recent signing Billy Sharp as their trump card in the quest for safety.
Brown feels the on-pitch chemistry between himself and Sharp, unable to line-up together in 2011-12 when the footballing injury fates intervened, augurs well.
Brown, whose two strikes against Wigan represented his first scoring return since November 2, said: “The run was probably partly my own fault as I wasn’t getting chances. So it was nice to get one goal and a penalty against Wigan.
“It was not a case of lacking confidence because I have got a lot of self-belief but it was nice as, when the gaffer plays me, my job is to score goals, in the most part.”
On his embryonic partnership with Sharp, he added: “I know Billy and we’re mates and it was great to have him back and the lads have taken to him straight away and it’s given everyone a boost.
“Billy’s a good character to have around and keeps you on your toes.
“We didn’t play together at all a few seasons ago as he got injured on the first day of the season and by the time he came back I was injured. His ability speaks for itself but the good thing is he also puts a shift in as do the other strikers such as Theo (Robinson).
“We linked up quite well the other night against Charlton and he always seemed to be close. When the ball is coming in, I always know he is going to be on the inside. Hopefully, the more we play together, the more understanding we’ll get.”