IT is fair to say Leeds United midfielder Michael Brown had the last laugh at St Andrews on Tuesday evening.
Serenaded by a tongue-in-cheek ditty from the brazen ranks in the away end keeping themselves amused on a freezing and uninspiring night, Brown and his team-mates belatedly gave the 1,547 travelling fans something positive to sing about in a 2-1 win.
United’s reward was something that will have put the players in chirpier mood on the bus back home from the Midlands in the small hours, namely an attractive-looking televised FA Cup fourth-round clash with Tottenham Hotspur at Elland Road on January 27.
It is a fixture that has extra resonance for Brown, on the books at White Hart Lane for two seasons in 2004-06 – and with his 36th birthday on the horizon just two days before the tie, an appearance against Spurs would be a belated present.
Speaking of milestones, Brown’s colleague El-Hadji Diouf was certainly afforded the icing on the cake to his own 32nd birthday celebrations at Birmingham City by way of a deliciously-taken match-winning penalty 14 minutes from time.
Although it would be stretching it to imagine Brown, somewhat of an unsung hero during his time with Spurs, claiming star billing against the North Londoners, with a starting spot alone probably satisfying him.
Brown said: “It was a great performance in the second half at Birmingham. We did alright in parts in the first half, but in the second, we got a sniff we could get something from the game, and we went after it.
“Everybody worked hard and in the end, it was a really solid away performance. The boys were fired up against a tough Birmingham team who have some experienced players and we are delighted to get through, especially with the great draw against Tottenham.
“Ross (McCormack) just wants to score goals and scored a good equaliser and then Dioufy came through with a cheeky penalty on his birthday – we reckon he’s 43, not 32, though he will say he’s 24. But the penalty was typical of his composure.
“Playing Spurs is fantastic for me with it being my old club – I think I am the only one with a Spurs connection at Leeds – but it will be a great tie for the club too, especially at Elland Road.
“I got to the quarters when I was at Tottenham and the final with Portsmouth and I love the cup. It seems to be falling away a bit with some supporters, but we were saying on the bus to Birmingham that it is still special to the players – well, it is to me anyway.”
Brown may have been left to contemplate a sentimental renewal of acquaintances with his former club, but Neil Warnock’s main emotion at the final whistle was relief at seeing his charges produce a response after the weekend no-show at Oakwell – when a section of fans called for owners GFH Capital to sack him.
Still on the subject of criticism, Warnock admitted that the only slight sour point to a positive night at St Andrews were the unflattering chants from Leeds fans in the direction of Brown and Luke Varney.
But they failed to take significant gloss away from a much-needed victory, which saw United avoid a fifth successive away-day loss, something which last happened in the forgettable relegation season of 2006-07.
He said: “I’m not sure I liked one or two fans having a go at Michael Brown and Luke Varney; that disappointed me, but that is football. You should get behind the team if they are playing well.
“But the fans in general are fantastic and I have not had a problem with them from day one. All fans are fickle at every club. If you saw the way we played on Saturday and I had paid for that, I would have slaughtered the team and the manager. You cannot fault them for that.”
On his own sense of relief at the result after stinging weekend criticism, he added: “All I do is my best. You either like me or you loathe me at most clubs around the country. I do my best for Leeds and the majority of fans are fantastic. They know what I am doing and they support me.
“I am in the game for nights like Tuesday. I love proving people wrong when you’ve been kicked in the teeth. It’s easy to lie down.
“The owners have been very supportive and they were on Saturday night. They didn’t have to do that, but they gave me words of encouragement and they’ll be pleased with the Birmingham result.”
Left-back Adam Drury will be out for an extended spell after injuring his ankle at Birmingham.
Warnock waiting on Becchio interest
NEIL WARNOCK has failed to offer any cast-iron guarantees that Luciano Becchio’s long-term future is at Elland Road.
The Argentine missed the 2-1 win at Birmingham City due to illness, despite speculation suggesting the unsettled striker was watching known-admirers Wigan at Bournemouth.
Warnock said: “He (Becchio) texted (chief executive) Shaun Harvey to say he was at home, so he obviously heard the rumours.”
On Becchio’s future, he added: “We will see. I cannot say anything other than what I know and I have spoken to the owners about it. I am not aware of any bids. Shaun is dealing with all that, so I am sure if anything concrete comes, we will hear about it.”