Michael Brown claimed under-pressure Leeds United had shown their true colours by gearing up for a crucial clash against Bristol City with a battling FA Cup win in Birmingham.
The midfielder looked forward to a “big game” on Saturday after United’s midweek victory over Birmingham City eased a tense atmosphere around Elland Road.
Leeds reached round four of the FA Cup by winning Tuesday night’s third-round replay at St Andrew’s, and the club’s progression earned them a meeting with Tottenham Hotspur, one of Brown’s former teams.
United stand to earn a substantial six-figure sum from a televised meeting with the Premier League side at Elland Road on January 27 but more attention is focusing on Saturday’s game against Bristol City with Leeds’ Championship season in need of a shot in the arm.
The club’s players were berated by their own supporters after suffering a 2-0 defeat to struggling Barnsley last weekend and Bristol City – under the control of new manager Sean O’Driscoll – are coming to Elland Road as the Championship’s bottom side.
United are in a delicate position after falling five points adrift of the division’s top six but Brown took encouragement from a strong second-half display at St Andrew’s, where goals from Ross McCormack and El-Hadji Diouf carried Leeds into the FA Cup’s fourth round.
The display was a response to intensifying criticism of United’s performances and tactics under manager Neil Warnock, who faced calls for his dismissal after the loss at Oakwell last Saturday.
“We came for a cup tie, the boys were fired up and we were delighted to get through, especially with a great draw against Tottenham,” Brown said.
“It was a great performance in the second half. We did all right in parts in the first half but in the second half we got a sniff that we could get something from the game and we went after it.
“Everybody worked hard and in the end it was a really solid away performance. There were some fantastic passes and some great moves and it showed that we’ve got good footballers. We do have good players at the club and with a few additions we can get stronger and stronger.
“Like every transfer window, every club would like to see some new faces come in to improve the squad and we’re no exception. But it’s out of players’ control. We just do what we can on the pitch.”
Brown called on Leeds to carry Tuesday’s display into their Bristol City clash, saying: “It’s a big game on Saturday. They’ll be fired up by having a new manager.”
Warnock, meanwhile, hit back at accusations of an excessive reliance on direct tactics and said: “One or two people have been going on about the style of football over the past few weeks but that’s rubbish.
“We played good football at Birmingham and we thoroughly deserved the win, especially in the second half.”
Leeds’ clash with Spurs is set to pit Brown against the club he joined from Warnock’s Sheffield United in 2004.
The 35-year-old said: “It’s a proper club with proper fans and I’m sure they’ll bring their full allocation. Their following is great away from home.
“It’ll be good for us to try and match them and we’ll certainly have to be on our game. You have to be on your guard all the time because once you give them a goal or a chance you get punished. But it’s fantastic for me and a great tie for the club too.”