Sunderland defender Wes Brown will not be rushed back into first-team action after having completed a development squad game, according to manager Martin O'Neill.
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Brown, 33, has endured an injury-plagued 18 months on Wearside since joining the club from Manchester United along with John O'Shea in July 2011.
Restricted to less than two dozen appearances for the Black Cats, the former England international, who has not played since January 2012, made a significant step in his recovery from a knee injury earlier this week when he played a full 90 minutes for Sunderland's Under-21 side.
"Wes has been getting through the work on the training ground for a while now, and it is encouraging," O'Neill told the Shields Gazette. "But he is a million miles away from being available for a match, and it would be wrong to put any spotlight on him after having been out for as long as he has been. We have just got to let Wes get on with it, and I hope he keeps going in the right direction."
Brown still has two years to run on his Sunderland contract, and O'Neill said earlier this month that the defender is far from finished as a professional footballer.
"He is back in training, though he doesn't train every day in case his knee starts to swell," he told the Daily Star. "But he has been training more often and if he gets a proper pre-season in the summer, then who knows?''