Brown left dismayed by demise of Steel City teams

FORMER Sheffield United midfielder Michael Brown admits to feeling saddened to see both Steel City clubs in League One as he prepares to visit Hillsborough with new side Leeds United.

The Owls host Leeds at 1pm today in a pre-season friendly that is likely to attract a decent crowd to Hillsborough.

With the Football League season just a fortnight away, the game will be an important part of the preparations of two clubs whose ambition this term is to win promotion.

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Brown’s main focus, following his free transfer switch to Elland Road from Portsmouth earlier this month, is to ensure Leeds are part of the fight for a place in the Premier League.

The 34-year-old will, though, be keeping a close eye on events in Sheffield as the Owls and Blades compete together in the third tier for the first time since 1979-80.

Brown, who spent five seasons at Bramall Lane early in his career, said: “I find it hard to believe that both Sheffield clubs are in League One. It will still be a mad derby, though. There will be 30,000, which is amazing for that division.

“It is sad to see them both down there. They are two fantastic clubs and it is awful to see them in that league. Hopefully, they won’t be there for long, though.”

As a former Blades, Brown is expecting a few jibes from the home fans today but insists he won’t be unduly bothered.

He added: “There is every chance of me getting a bit of stick, especially as I scored a couple of times against Wednesday and we had a decent record in the derbies.

“But if that is the case, then I can take it. I’m a big boy now and am used to it.”

Brown has signed a one-year deal at Elland Road with the option of a further year built into the agreement.

So far, he has played in all three of United’s pre-season outings – a welcome turn of events after kicking his heels at Fratton Park from Christmas onwards last season due to a contract wrangle.

Keen to look forward rather than back, Brown is now eagerly looking forward to helping Leeds build on last season’s seventh place finish.

He said: “It is still very early. Too much shouldn’t be read into results at this time of year. Often, we are training on the day of a game as well as playing so that can be tiring.

“Often, players only play for one half as well so that causes disruption. The main thing about pre-season is getting some fitness into the lads.

“Sheffield Wednesday will be the sternest test yet. Rochdale was a good run out the other night but this will be a step up from that.”

United manager Simon Grayson, who has confirmed Luciano Becchio has undergone surgery on a hamstring injury that will keep the striker out for the start of the campaign, is also expecting a good workout for his side at Hillsborough after claiming consecutive wins over Falkirk, Motherwell and Rochdale in pre-season.

He said: “It will be a good game. They have good players and there will be a good atmosphere.

“It is all about progression and this is a good test. Hillsborough is a good stadium and they have some experienced players, who will want to impress Gary Megson.

“I thought we played really well at Rochdale in terms of possession and the way we moved the ball around.

“We also looked solid defensively. There is still a bit more sharpness to come in the final third but that is only to be expected at this stage.”

Leeds will hand another chance to trialists Jlloyd Samuel, Isaiah Osbourne and Alex Mendy today as Grayson continues to look at ways of strengthening his squad ahead of the opening day trip to Southampton on August 6.

On the trio of United hopefuls, Grayson said: “They are shaping up well and I thought they did well the other night. Whether we make a decision after the weekend, we will wait and see.

“It may be that we take them to Norway next week.”

Leeds’s preparations for the new season continue with Tuesday night’s clash again Norwegian club Sandefjord before Newcastle United are the visitors to Elland Road on Sunday July 31 for the club’s final outing before the big kick-off at St Mary’s.

That clash with Southampton will take place without last season’s top scorer Becchio following the confirmation he will need surgery.

The problem is a recurrence of the injury that brought an early end to the 2010-11 campaign for the Argentinian, who missed the final four games. At the time, it was believed Becchio had undergone surgery but instead the decision was taken to see if rest would be enough.

Unfortunately, that thinking proved wide of the mark with the striker breaking down in training earlier this month and now facing a lengthy lay-off.

Grayson is unwilling to put a time-scale on Becchio’s rehab but operations such as the one he has just undertaken usually keep a player out for up to two months, meaning Becchio may not return until the end of September.

Meanwhile, Flamingo Land Theme Park, whose chief executive Gordon Gibb used to be chairman of Bradford City, are the new sponsors of United’s Academy. Under the terms of the agreement, the youth team shirts will sport the company’s name.