MICHAEL Brown will be afforded a hearty reception from the Manchester City faithful tomorrow – that is until he leaves one of their stars in a heap on the turf.
The Hartlepool-born 36-year-old will be lining up against his former club in the colours of Leeds United for the FA Cup Fifth Round tie at Eastlands (kick off 2pm).
Brown was a terrace favourite at Maine Road between 1995 and 1999, a period which chartered the fall and re-emergence of The Citizens.
A graduate of their once-famed youth academy, he played in each of England’s top three divisions and was once voted player of the season by the club’s fans.
And Brown insists it is those supporters who remain the fabric of the club despite the Arab investment which has made it the superpower it is today.
“It’s always a rollercoaster ride there and a lot has changed since I left,” the midfielder told SportMail today.
“But the one thing which hasn’t changed are the supporters.
“We were getting 27,000 in League One and that was unheard of – they are special fans.
“I went there from school. I remember going down with my dad and we both just got a good feeling – it felt like the right club for me.
“They brought their young players through and it proved a wise choice for my career.
“I played in all three leagues with them and they were great times for me.
“I was voted player of the year when I was there and I had a brilliant relationship with the fans.
“I always get a good reception – that is until I put a tackle in.”
Brown still lives in Manchester with his wife and three children.
He has become a mainstay of the Leeds engine-room under Neil Warnock and starred in their fourth-round win over Tottenham Hotspur.
Having noted the achievement of West Yorkshire neighbours, Bradford City, in reaching the final of the League Cup, Brown admits he had hoped for a kinder draw.
Nonetheless, the meeting with his first club is an enticing alternative.
“After beating Spurs I wanted the easiest draw so we could get through again,” he said.
“You look at Bradford City and think ‘Why not? That could be us’.
“But if there was going to be any hard draw I wanted then Man City would have been it.
“It’s the perfect draw for myself.”
And can they upset the odds against Roberto Mancini’s out-of-sorts City?
“Man City lose a couple of games and all of a sudden it’s a crisis – second in the Premier League and a crisis?” laughed Brown.
“It might actually be a bad time to play them because the way it’s shaping up they could be having a right good go for the FA Cup.
“For us to win we’ll have to be 100 per cent on our game and they’ll have to be off theirs, it will have to be that way.
“Either way, I can’t wait.
“I have spent my whole career revelling these games against the best teams.
“I’m getting on a bit now as well so I’ll be enjoying every second of this one.”