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If West Brom fans feared that they were getting a greedy player when they signed Chris Brunt for £3m back in 2007, their stance may have been justified by Sheffield Wednesday’s refusal to bow to what they saw as excessive wage demands in failed contract negotiations. By the time the 35-year-old confirmed the end of his stay at The Hawthorns this week, any such fears would have been long since allayed.
The Northern Ireland’s first season with the Baggies ended in fairytale fashion as he scored the goal against Southampton which effectively clinched promotion to the Premier League and also netted in the win over QPR which mathematically confirmed their place in the top flight. He ended the following season as Albion’s top scorer with nine league goals but was unable to prevent them from an instant return to the Championship.
There was a sense of deja vu about the 2009/10 season as West Brom were again promoted and again Brunt was on target in the game which sealed their top-flight return, scoring in the defining 3-2 win at Doncaster. After three ‘elevator’ years for the Baggies, they would now be set for eight unbroken seasons at Premier League level.
Brunt was appointed club captain by Roy Hodgson shortly after the manager’s arrival midway through the 2010/11 campaign and he kept the armband for four years until Darren Fletcher succeeded him in the role. By that stage, the Belfast native was a consistently productive creative outlet for Albion and the signing of a three-year deal in 2014 ensured that he would complete a decade at The Hawthorns.
The year of 2016 was not his most cherished one, with Brunt disgracefully having a coin thrown at him by an individual among the Baggies’ travelling support in an FA Cup defeat at Reading and then suffering a cruciate ligament injury which sidelined him for eight months and cruelly deprived him of playing at Euro 2016, Northern Ireland’s first major tournament appearance in 30 years.
The midfielder thankfully overcame that injury to regain his place as an Albion regular but wasn’t able to find the net in a miserable 2017/18 season which ended in relegation from the Premier League. Having lost his place as a first team regular under Slaven Bilic this term, the club announced on Thursday that Brunt would be released upon the expiry of his contract at the end of the season.
Is Chris Brunt West Brom's greatest player of the Premier League era?
In a 13-year West Brom career which began when current team-mate Nathan Ferguson hadn’t reached his seventh birthday, Brunt will leave as one of only 16 players to reach the 400-game mark for the club, along with being the Baggies’ record appearance holder in the Premier League with 269 top-flight matches. He is Albion’s third highest scorer in the division, a tremendous feat given that he never played as an attacker. [via wba.co.uk]
It was only right that the tributes flowed for such a fantastic servant to the club in recent days. West Brom’s chief executive Mark Jenkins called him “one of our great servants and players“, while Bilic hailed the Irishman’s professionalism in accepting his new-found role as a squad player, saying: “Chris has been brilliant. He cares so much about the club and he’s so professional. He hasn’t dropped one bit in training and he has always been very respectful of the situation.”
As for what The Hawthorns faithful thought of the 35-year-old…just pore your eyes through the responses to this tweet from the club announcing his impending departure.
The first time after this season that a West Brom number 11 shirt without Brunt’s name of it makes an appearance, it could seem a strange sight. Whoever ends up wearing it will have the honour of following in the footsteps of a genuine Hawthorns hero.
West Brom fans, how saddened were you when it was announced that Brunt is leaving at the end of the season? Comment below with your views!
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