Neil Warnock has described Michael Brown as the “unsung hero” of his time at Leeds United and claimed the 35-year-old is an irreplaceable part of his line-up.
Warnock praised Brown for his performances in recent games against Portsmouth, Southampton and Hull City, claiming United had benefited from his “cool head” in the centre of midfield.
Brown was arguably the most high-profile signing made by former manager Simon Grayson last summer, brought in on a free transfer after leaving Portsmouth, but he made no impression under Grayson this season.
The former Sheffield United player started only 10 league fixtures before Warnock drafted him into Leeds’ line-up for his first game as manager at Fratton Park on February 25, but Warnock sees him as a vital influence in both United’s tactics and the development of young midfielder Adam Clayton.
Warnock said: “Browny’s been the unsung hero since I came to the club. He’s been instrumental in defending and attacking by showing a cool head.
“To underline how well he’s done, if he got injured then we might struggle to replace him with the squad we have.”
Brown was a driving force in the Sheffield United team which thrived under Warnock for several years, scoring 22 times in the 2002-03 Championship season as they reached the Division One play-off final.
“His game’s changed since we were first together,” Warnock said. “Back then I gave him the freedom to get forward. Now he wouldn’t be able to get back!
“But he still has a lot to offer and his contribution’s been fantastic. I also think he’s brought the best out of Adam – even though I felt Tuesday (United’s goalless draw at Hull City) was Adam’s poorest game.”
Brown’s initial contract with Leeds expires at the end of this season – the deal he agreed included the option of a further year at Elland Road – and Clayton is little over 12 months away from the end of the contract he signed in 2010.
Along with Clayton, a number of other key squad members who will enter the final year of their deals this summer, among them club captain Robert Snodgrass and leading goalscorer Ross McCormack. Warnock is looking to address the future of individual players in the coming days.
Republic of Ireland Under-21 international Aidan White is another asset vulnerable to outside interest having rejected the offer of a new contract from Leeds. White’s existing deal is due to expire in June.
But Snodgrass’ situation is the subject of most attention, with the Scotland international rated by many – Warnock included – as the outstanding member of United’s squad.
Dwindling deals encouraged Leeds to sell Jonathan Howson and Max Gradel earlier this season, and Snodgrass is expected to attract fresh interest during the summer transfer window. Norwich City bid unsuccessful to sign him last year.
Warnock said: “I’m speaking to the players and I’ll speak to their agents in the next few days. At the moment, there aren’t enough hours in the day.
“All the players with a year or less, I need to talk to. Robert’s no different.”
Warnock, meanwhile, revealed that he would continue to look for new signings in the remaining days of the Football League’s emergency loan window.
The deadline for temporary transfers falls a week on Thursday and Warnock, who has already recruited forward Danny Webber and defender Paul Robinson, said: “I’d still like to bring one or two in with a view to looking to next season – just to see if they’re what I am looking for.”