Chris Brunt will be leaving West Bromwich Albion and looking for a new club – a few months after he seemed sure to up sticks to Stoke City.
West Brom have confirmed today that their captain will be released at the end of the 2019/20 season following 13 years at the Hawthorns. A club statement says he will exit as “one of Abion’s all-time greats”.
The 35-year-old midfielder, who has played a key role in two promotion campaigns, is one of only 16 players to have made more than 400 appearances for Albion.
And he is equally as revered by fans of Northern Ireland, where he had been a consistent performer for the best part of a decade under Michael O’Neill.
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O’Neill, indeed, seemed certain to sign him on transfer deadline day in January, only for Bruno Martins Indi’s exit to stall and all bets called off.
The manager explained the following week: “It was an option. We had explored the potential of bringing Chris in.
“It was more on the basis of potentially Bruno going out, to be honest, and when that deal didn’t materialise, we felt that we would be one player too many in that situation. That’s the nature of the transfer window.”
Brunt has written a personal message to West Brom supporters to say goodbye, hoping he can sign off by sealing a third promotion to the Premier League.
He has nine games remaining but they will be played out behind closed doors.
And he will be looking for a new club, rather than heading into retirement.
“For now I will do all I can to help us get promoted to the Premier League and I’ll be ready if the manager needs me,” said the veteran, who has made five league appearances this season under Slaven Bilic.
“After that, I hope, a new challenge awaits elsewhere. It will be strange to play for another club after all my years at Albion, but I still feel I have plenty to offer, and there’s a bit of football left in the tank yet.”
Brunt had played alongside Glenn Whelan at Sheffield Wednesday before he moved to the Midlands.
He said: “When I left Sheffield Wednesday to join Albion in 2007, it was a tough decision for me to make. I had finally settled in an area I liked and my wife Cathy and I had made some good friends.
“We’d also just found out we were expecting our first child, Charlie, who was due in May 2008, so we were nervous about upping sticks and moving to another new environment. We couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome at The Hawthorns, not just by the staff but also the supporters.
“Fast forward 13 years and I find myself getting emotional as I write this statement thinking back over all the good times we have shared. From promotions under Tony Mowbray and Robbie Di Matteo to consistently holding our own in the Premier League under Roy Hodgson, Steve Clarke, Tony Pulis and others.
“There was, of course, the disappointment of two relegations, a defeat in the FA Cup semi-final, and losing out in the Play-Offs last season. But the highs – which include scoring goals to help us get promoted and win the Championship in 2008, becoming captain of this great club in 2011, and realising my dream as a young boy in Belfast of playing in the Premier League – have always far outweighed the lows.
“There are too many memories to mention from my 400-plus games and I will treasure them for the rest of my days.”