Prior to kick off on Saturday one of Albion’s current serving longest players was honoured in front of The Hawthorns crowd. Chris Brunt was presented with a signed shirt from the current playing squad. In hindsight it was a measly gift for such a good servant.
However, has there ever been an Albion player who has made so many appearances for the club yet still splits opinion? I doubt it. Chris Brunt is like Marmite. You either love him or hate him.
In modern day football a player making 300 appearances for the same club is a rarity. Brunt now edges ahead of James Morrison for making Premier League appearances after pulling on the Throstle 202 times. Yet when Brunt signed from Sheffield Wednesday on the 15th August 2007 for £3m few would’ve expected such an achievement from the winger.
Despite his price tag there was little to suggest he’d become a regular over the next seven years for the club. When he first signed a Sheffield Wednesday fan told me to expect a series of great goals but not much else. Brunt has continued the trend of banging in great goals but has added to his original asset of simply having ‘a good left foot’. After being bombed out of Middlesbrough, Brunt was chosen by Tony Mowbray to rebuild his squad after Albion’s defeat in the Play Off Final.
In his first season he scored the goal which earned us automatic promotion and then fired in a free kick to take us to the title. Not bad as first impressions go. Brunt suffered relegation the following season but then played another starring role under Roberto Di Matteo. Initially signed as a left midfielder, Brunt adapted his game on the right cutting in field delivering crosses for Kevin Phillips to head home.
He’s since established himself as a solid Premier League player. Brunt is never going to set the world alight. His languid style is often seen as lazy. But he’s always put his body and head on the line. He’s scored great goals against the Wolves and Villa. Kept his nerve against Liverpool with two late penalties. Let’s not forget that free-kick against Everton either. Or his contribution as captain.
Brunt is effectively now in his third different position as a Baggies player – I haven’t really counted his spell in Albion’s engine room. While he is still learning the position as a left-back, Brunt has remained a consistent performer. On the surface that may not seem as being a great compliment. But Chris has always been Mr Consistent. He’s always topped the charts for assists and popped up with the odd goal.
The 30-year-old needs another 149 appearances to break into the top-ten all time appearance holders for the club. Whether he can continue at the top level for another three or four seasons remains to be seen. I hope he gets there. He deserves it after his efforts over the years.