And boss praises skipper for way he's turned a negative into a positiveSTEVE Clarke believes Chris Brunt is back to his best – and has given an insight into his captain ahead of today’s Hawthorns clash with Sunderland (ko 3pm).
The Baggies boss says early-season injuries made it difficult for the Northern Ireland international to get into his stride this season.
After a successful spell in central midfield to cover for injuries he has returned to his more familiar wide role in recent weeks.
And Clarke has hailed the job he has done for the team as well as his qualities as skipper.
“I don’t think you need to be really vocal or demonstrative to be a good captain,” he said.
“You have to be a good person.
“I think if you’re a good person people will respect you.
“Chris is a good person - and that’s important.”
He added: “He finished the previous season with an injury and he was in and out of the team.
“He started this season with an injury.
“He actually came back on the first day with an injury and he missed the first week of pre-season.
“I think, because there was a new head coach in, he was desperate to get back training.
“He started too early and he ended up re-injuring himself.
“So the first 12 weeks of the season Chris was just going from injury to injury.
“I think he’s one of those players who likes to play game and game and game and gets his fitness and form up that way.
“I think you’ve seen over the last few months his contribution for the team has been good.
“He has a terrific record of assists.
“His dead-ball delivery is excellent and we score a lot of goals from Chris’ deliveries.
“He’s an important part of the team and squad.
“He played in the middle when we were short of players.
“He did very well for us and I think eventually that could become his position.
“But, at the moment, he has enough energy to play wide as well.
“He gets up and down the line and gives good balance and width to the team.
“As a coach, it’s nice to have left-footed players on the left side of the pitch to balance the team out – I enjoy that as a coach.
“I think Chris could play any position really because he’s got good ability.
“I think Roy [Hodgson] used him a lot on the right, which you can see is a good tactic to be coming in on his strong left-foot and able to have shots on goal and a wicked delivery with an in-swinging left foot.”
Clarke has also not been surprised to see Brunt respond in a positive manner to the ironic cheers from a minority of fans that greeted his substitution in the disappointing New Year’s Day home defeat by Fulham.
“We had a little chat about it,” said the Albion chief.
“He’s a sensible lad. He wasn’t happy with the reaction of the crowd that day, none of us were.
“But it’s been spoken about and it’s an incident that has passed us now.
“We’ve all moved on from it.
“Chris is a sensible lad, he understood the crowd were frustrated, he didn’t take it too personally, and he just knuckled down and continues to produce good performances for the club, as he has done over the last five or six years.”