Some young footballers lead a cosseted existence where things are handed to them on a plate.
But, after finding himself without a club earlier this summer, Reece Brown understands the importance of being self-sufficient and honest hard work.
“I didn’t really have a holiday,” Sheffield United’s new signing said. “Just four or five days away and then it was straight back into the gym. I knew I had to look after myself and stay in shape because an opportunity might materialise at any time. So I knuckled down, stayed focused and got on with things. Which, thankfully, probably helped me get where I am now.”
Brown agreed a short term contract at Bramall Lane on Friday following a successful trial period with Chris Wilder’s side. The former Bury, Barnsley and Watford defender, whose future will be reviewed in January, admitted he is “delighted” to join United after leaving Gigg Lane last season. Nevertheless, the 24-year-old acknowledged, the real graft starts now.
“I’ve just got to keep my head down, show that I’m worthy of something longer and why the manager wanted to bring me here. Yes, of course I’d love to stay well past that deal. But, if I don’t put everything in then that chance won’t be there. You never know when an opening might come up in football and, if one does, then I’ve got to be in a position to take it.”
Brown could make his debut sooner than expected if, as seems likely, Jake Wright or James Wilson are unavailable for selection against Bristol Rovers this evening. Both centre-halves missed Saturday’s draw with Scunthorpe through injury and, following Chris Basham’s dismissal at Glanford Park, changes are expected for the meeting with Darrell Clarke’s team.
Brown, who started his career with Manchester United, is aware football can move in mysterious ways.
“Before coming here, I was due to go to Leyton Orient,” he continued. “I was down there training with them and got what everyone thought was a little injury but which turned out to be a grade two ligament tear. Everything is fine now but with them (Orient) wanting someone straight away, the whole thing fell through. Obviously I’d have rather not got that problem but, looking back, it all worked out fine because I’ve ended-up coming to a huge club. The biggest in the division by far.”
Speaking earlier this month, Wilder accused some players of being too egotistical to undergo auditions with Football League clubs.
“If it’s a trial, it’s a trial,” he said.” Don’t get precious about it. You’re out of work and looking for a job.”
Brown had no qualms about accepting United’s invitation to train at the Steelphalt Academy and, as a result, has already made an impression behind the scenes.
“It wasn’t a problem at all,” the 24-year-old said. “Why would it be? I got the call and was really, really happy that I did. So, if the staff here wanted to have a look and me and find out about me, then I was never going to have an issue with that. It wouldn’t make sense if I did.”
Brown enjoyed loan spells with the likes of Bradford City, Doncaster Rovers and Oldham before waving goodbye to Old Trafford. Working alongside some of the sport’s leading names, including older brother Wes, helped shape his down-to-earth approach.
“Back then, you knew you had to be close to world class to get in the first team at Manchester United. There was people like Chris Smalling, Gary Neville and of course my bruv’ ahead of you in the side. It was always going to be difficult to get past them but it was still a brilliant education. Sir Alex Ferguson was brilliant with us young lads too. If you did well, then he’d reward you by letting you train with the first team. He’s a really nice person but, if you didn’t do what you should have been doing, then he really used to let you know. The right attitude was everything with him.”
The right attitude, Brown explained, is everything with Wilder too.
“All of the work we do here has been really full-on,” Brown said. “Personally, I think that’s a good thing because this is a demanding business and a tough, tough league. You can’t afford to relax or switch off because, if you do, then it catches up with you. If you’re not committed or totally professional, then you probably aren’t going to achieve. We want to achieve here.”