Downing warns against underestimating midfielder's importance
KEITH Downing believes Chris Brunt’s qualities are being undervalued insisting: “He is a players’ player,”
The Albion skipper has been restricted to just two starts and three substitute appearances in the Barclays Premier League following an influx of new midfield signings in the summer.
But – in what is his seventh successive season at The Hawthorns – the Northern Ireland international still jointly leads the Baggies’ assists chart alongside Morgan Amalfitano, with two apiece.
Downing said: “He’s got high pass-rates, he’s got assists, he’s a consummate pro, he leads the group and has a high regard within the group, and he is experienced in terms of the position he plays.
“I suppose the formation, with the two holding midfielders, and us being more attack-minded in the wide areas, has that affected people’s perception?
“I don’t know whether they want to see wingers who will fly past somebody?
“Chris isn’t that, he’s an influence in the middle of the park who keeps things moving.
“His assists come in terms of set-pieces and final plays – he set up the move for the first goal on Saturday by finding Sessegnon, and took the corner for the second.
“Sometimes when we look at things tactically we talk about shoring up one side, and we know that wingers aren’t always defence-minded and don’t always tuck themselves back in.
“But Chris gives that solidity to the team, wherever he is asked to play, whether it’s centrally, or on the right blocking up one side, he does the role.
“I got wind of the moans and groans on Saturday when he put a stray pass in, but there were a lot of stray passes.
“It was a scrappy game and wasn’t nice to watch.
“The weather didn’t help and the pitch didn’t play great, so there were lots of excuses.
“But he is an important player to the group.
“I think he’s more of a player’s player than other people seeing it.
“No disrespect to the punters, but with the knowledge of football people, we know what value he brings.
“He’s waited patiently, although he’s been frustrated, as you would be when you’ve been a regular for most of your time here.
“But he’s never thrown the towel in and he was one of our best players when he came in at Fulham.
“He’s had niggly injuries, which haven’t helped him, but he has a high regarded within the group and with the staff.”