HITC Sport's run-down of Sheffield United's greatest ever players continues with Michael Brown
For a while, Michael Brown was the best central midfield player outside the Premier League.
Signed from Manchester City for £400,000 (according to the Hartlepool Mail) around the turn of the millennium, Brown was one of a long line of Neil Warnock bargains. He could tackle, he could pass, he could shoot, he was a leader.
Brown was the complete player.
Throughout 2002-03, he scored 22 goals in all competitions as United narrowly missed out on promotion to the top flight, losing the play-off final 3-0 to Wolves - a game in which Brown missed a penalty with Warnock's men already beaten.
As well as their trip to the Millennium Stadium, the Blades had previously visited Old Trafford, where they were unfortunate to lose 1-0 to Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-finals, and Anfield, where they lost 2-0 to Liverpool (and 3-2 on aggregate) at the same stage of the then-named Worthington Cup.
Brown was instrumental in both cup runs and scored twice in each, but it was his goal against city rivals Wednesday in Division One for which he is most fondly remembered at Bramall Lane.
United trailed the Owls by one Alan Quinn strike in the January 2003 encounter (the midfielder would later go on to score for the Blades in a Steel City derby two-and-a-half-years later), but Steve Kabba equalised before Brown stole the headlines.
Wednesday's Garry Monk failed to clear his lines and just as the ball dropped towards the edge of the D, Brown arched his back and volleyed straight into Kevin Pressman's top corner, before Wayne Allison added a third to seal the points.
After such an outstanding campaign, it would have been hard for bigger clubs not to take note of Brown's exploits, and with his contract expiring, United were forced to accept a cut-price offer from Tottenham Hotspur in January 2004.
However, with Michael Carrick, Edgar Davids and Danny Murphy for company, Brown was seldom used in the same way he had been at Bramall Lane.
Spells at Fulham, Portsmouth, Wigan, Leeds and Port Vale followed, but only once did he score more than three goals in any single campaign.
Ah, what might have been.
Sheffield United career: 1999-2004
Other clubs: Manchester City, Hartlepool (loan), Tottenham, Fulham, Portsmouth, Wigan, Leeds and Port Vale.