Brunt, a veteran of many a battle

Chris Brunt has been the West Bromwich captain since January 2011 and has been involved in two promotions and a relegation. By Richard Waterhouse.

Chris Brunt isn’t one of the English Premier League’s most notable wingers but he is one of the longest serving, having made more than 250 appearances for West Bromwich Albion.

The Northern Ireland international has been an integral part of the Baggies squad since 2007 and during his time at The Hawthorns, he has played under eight different managers, including current England coach Roy Hodgson.

Brunt has been captain since January 2011 and has been involved in two promotions and a relegation, with West Brom seen as a ‘yo-yo’ club for a while, a reputation which they have shrugged off as they are now in their fifth successive seasons in the top flight.

He has also made 48 appearances for his country and earned a call-up to Great Britain’s provisional squad to compete at the London Olympics in 2012.

Brunt grew up in Belfast where he could have been pushed in to taking up rugby union due to his father being an avid fan and talented player.

Instead, he opted to take up football and joined Saint Andrews Boys Club. He then crossed the Irish Sea and had trials with Middlesbrough and Rangers but ended up at the Riverside Stadium in 2002. After failing to force his way into the first team, Brunt joined Sheffield Wednesday in March 2004, initially on loan before the move was made permanent.

In his first full season at Hillsborough, Brunt helped the Owls clinch promotion to the Championship and was the club’s highest goal-scorer the following campaign.

After making more than 100 appearances for Wednesday, Brunt began to court interest from several teams and left the South Yorkshire club in the summer of 2007 after negotiations broke down over a new deal.

West Brom had a GPB3 million accepted and Brunt experienced great success in his first season as he helped the club win the Championship title which secured a place in the Premier League.

In the closing weeks of the campaign, Brunt scored two decisive goals to help send them up. He grabbed an equaliser against Southampton to seal promotion and fired in a free-kick in a 2-0 win over QPR which clinched the title.

However, his first season in the Premier League was one to forget as the club finished at the bottom of the table with 32 points and went back down to the Championship with Newcastle and Middlesbrough, ending the season as team’s top scorer was a scant consolation.

Manager Tony Mowbray was sacked following relegation and was replaced by Roberto Di Matteo with Brunt showing his commitment to the club by signing a new three-year contract.

Di Matteo led the Baggies straight back to the top flight at the first attempt, with Brunt playing another significant part by netting 13 goals in 40 matches — his highest tally in a single season.

Despite being named the Premier League manager of the month in September 2010, Di Matteo was relieved of his duties after a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City in February and Hodgson took over on Valentine’s Day.

The experienced Hodgson transformed the club’s fortunes and led them to an 11th-placed finish — their highest league position for three decades. He also stripped goalkeeper Scott Carson of the captaincy and handed the armband to Brunt.

Hodgson enjoyed further success in 2011/12, particularly on the personal front as he was named England manager in April 2012, although he remained as WBA boss and guided them to 10th place — their best top-flight finish since 1981.

After Hodgson departed, Steve Clarke was brought in that summer and his first year resulted in an historic eighth-placed finish with a record 49 points. The final game of the season saw Brunt help the Baggies draw 5-5 with Manchester United which was Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game in charge.

Nevertheless, the following season proved to be a lot more challenging for the club as they slipped to 17th, with Clarke losing his job in the process and being replaced by Pepe Mel after Keith Downing had a stint in caretaker charge.

The managerial changes continued in the summer when Alan Irvine replaced Mel and backed Brunt to remain as captain despite a challenge from goalkeeper Ben Foster, who was part of England’s World Cup squad.

Irvine said: “There’s absolutely no reason to change it. He has the respect of the changing room, he’s done a great job as captain for many years, so I have no intention to make any changes.”

In August, the club agreed to extend his contract by three years and he has featured in all league games so far as the Baggies bid to prolong their stay in the top flight.

Brunt is married to Cathy Brunt and they have two sons, Charlie and Zach.

© PA Sport