WES BROWN says he always planned to use this pre-season as a barometer of his fitness before even contemplating hanging up his boots.
Brown continued his encouraging comeback from long-term injury in Wednesday’s Barclays Asia Trophy semi-final victory over Spurs and he could again feature in tomorrow’s final against Manchester City (kick-off 1.30pm GMT) here in Hong Kong.
The 33-year-old has not played competitively for Sunderland since January 2012 - missing the entirety of last season after his knee problems re-surfaced during pre-season in South Korea last summer.
As reported, Sunderland had offered to come to terms on a financial settlement over the remaining two years of Brown’s contract at the Stadium of Light.
But the former England international wanted to see if he could make a comeback during pre-season - something he has so far achieved successfully after completing every training session of the summer.
Brown said: “I was always going to come back and train and see how it went.
“It’s gone fine. I’ve done everything that everyone else has done and it’s gone well.
“It was 100 per cent the case that pre-season was going to be a test of it.
“I was always confident that I could get the training in and come back.
“When you miss a season, you are very hungry to get back and that’s driven me on and kept my going.
“It is difficult, but if you love football, you want to get back to being a player and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
“It’s been tough during pre-season this year (under Paolo Di Canio) but in one way it’s helped because I’ve got a good base now.
“I just want to keep getting stronger and making sure my knee gets stronger.”
Every time Brown attempted to return to the fold last season, he broke down on the training field - either through his knee swelling up or other injuries.
But the centre-half believes the summer’s rest has been pivotal towards his comeback for the Black Cats.
“We had a good six weeks off and I think that helped,” he said.
“I didn’t do much for the first three or four weeks and then I started doing bits myself.
“Maybe that rest and a bit of sun helped.
“My knee just kept swelling up last season and we weren’t quite sure what it was.
“Whether it needed a bit more rest or not, I don’t know, but that’s helped.
“There were a few other things that went wrong as well.
“I tried to come back and my calf would get sore or something else would go. It wasn’t just my knee.
“But now it’s managing to hold up.”
Brown was part of a new-look Sunderland side that impressed against Spurs and the former Manchester United defender hopes Di Canio’s side can continue those encouraging signs in the Hong Kong Stadium tomorrow.
“We had a few new signings playing against Spurs and a few others came on, but they all did well,” added Brown.
“We’ve all got on as soon as they came into the club and that showed on Wednesday night.
“We’re not there yet, but you can see in our play that we’re starting to understand each other.”