Brunty bids emotional farewell

Albion legend Chris Brunt opened up and reflected on an incredible 13 seasons at The Hawthorns in his final interview with WBA TV.

Find out Brunty's emotional final message to supporters, his favourite goal, the best team he played in and much, much more in the free-to-view video here.

Alternatively, every last word from the Baggies hero is available to read in the full transcript below.

Brunty, let’s just start with Wednesday night, a special night for the football club and a special night for you. What was it like for you emotionally?

“I think it was a relief more than anything. The last few weeks have been difficult. You didn’t really want to rely on results from anywhere else but obviously we got a helping hand. I think the lads were just relieved to get it over, with all the lockdown stuff it’s been a really, really long season. Credit to everybody they have dug in and got us over the line. It wasn’t pretty but I think relief was the overriding emotion for everybody.

And of course, you would have been happy to come on to the pitch and play a part, after so long at this football club, to have a final appearance?

It was nice to be brought on not when we were cruising it 3-0 or the game was over. It was nice to be brought on because I needed to be brought on. I enjoyed the fact I was used in that way as well. It was great to be on the pitch when we got promoted and I was delighted for everybody. I have been here a long time, and I think you can see what it means to everybody around the place, not just the lads on the pitch, but everybody in the backroom staff who have worked so hard to achieve this, not just this season, but last season as well.

Were you just dreaming about the ball dropping to you on your left foot 25 yards out?

It goes through your head, but once you get on the pitch you play the game as you see it. I didn’t really get in any situations when I could shoot. We had a couple of set pieces and we had a couple of half chances off those, so you half think about that as well, but it was just nice to get over the line. It would have been nice to win the game obviously but when you see the reaction when you know you have been promoted, it’s a great feeling.

I know you would have liked to have played a much bigger role in the side this year Brunty, but in terms of winning promotion at the end of it, was it the perfect end to the season and the perfect end to your time at West Bromwich Albion?

I think so. I have known all season that this was probably going to be my last season here. I would have preferred to have a bit more input in the games, but the manager is a good manager and he picks the team and you have got to respect that. To leave the football club having not got out of this league, that would have been difficult. I would have not enjoyed that at all. To see everybody getting back up in the Premier League and all the benefits that go with it, it’s great for everybody.

I know you are friends with a lot of people here at the football club Brunty, not just the players, the backroom staff, the kitchen staff, you name it, you’re mates with them. How nice was it for you to see all of those people celebrating on Wednesday?

That’s the best thing about it. Everybody looks at the players and the players celebrate. The cameras are all on them, but nobody outside the football club sees what goes in here day to day and all around through the season and pre-season. The little things that get people out on the pitch on Saturday. The work the medical staff do and the kitchen staff, and the nutrition side has slowly crept in to football massively over the last few years. For those couple of hours on a matchday, the work that has been put into that, it’s a massive part of it. Everybody else deserves it as much as the players and the management staff.

From the present to the past. Going back 13 summers to that day you signed at the football club. How much of it can you remember?

Not a lot really, to be honest. I remember the night before coming down to watch West Brom against Bournemouth and they didn’t let me in because I had jeans on, and then somebody had to come down and let me in. Jeremy Peace was the chairman at the time and he had to send word down saying that I was allowed to come in. It was because I had jeans and trainers on and they were trying to take me in to one of the corporate bits. That wasn’t a good start, but it’s got slowly better after that. 

I think I came here the next day and I left my agent to it with the chairman. I think Mark Jenkins was there as well. That’s their department, that’s not my department. I sat and had a couple of hours with Tony Mowbray. I think we had a cup of tea and chatted about football. I’d played in the two games against West Brom for Sheffield Wednesday the year before and we won both games and I played pretty well in both matches and I think that probably stuck in Tony’s head. I was glad to get down here and the season we had that year made it even more special.

That season ended with promotion to the Premier League, just like this season Brunty. Three promotions for you in total, which one is your favourite?

I think probably the first one, because I’d not played in the Premier League before and that was always what I had wanted to do when I was a kid living in Belfast. I’d wanted to play Premier League football. Coming here and getting promotion and being given the chance to do that, that was great. The second one was probably the one I played the most part in. I scored a few goals and I played the majority of the games. But I think looking back on it, you probably enjoy the first one the most.

Is that what you are most proud of? The amount of Premier League appearances you made for this football club and the time you spent in that division?

The Club had a bit of a tag as being a yo-yo club and to be able to establish the club and play in the Premier League for so many years, I think that will be something when I look back on it that I will be most proud of. It’s all well getting to the Premier League, but to stay there is tough. You have got to keep producing that year on year, and to be fair, we did that as a team. We had a group of lads that were here for four of five seasons, or six or seven seasons maybe. The likes of myself, Ben Foster, Gareth McAuley, Jonas (Olsson), Mozza (James Morrison). Core players that grew with the team in the Premier League. It was a good place to be.

What is the best team you have played in here at West Bromwich Albion? Would it be those years with the core players you have just spoken about?

I think when I look back on my career, that will be the time I probably most enjoyed playing in the Premier League for West Brom. The likes of Steven Reid, and people like that, big characters. People that I enjoyed being around. Everybody was probably a similar sort of age group, which I think helped. It’s probably similar to the lads now. 

I’m a good bit older than the majority of the lads in the squad. They probably have that feeling now that I had back then. Not that I don’t enjoy being in this dressing room, it’s just different because I’m older than them all. Myself and Gareth Barry are the two oldest ones in the dressing room by a good bit now. You view things a little bit differently when you get older, as well. Looking back on it, the likes of Reidy (Steven Reid), Liam Ridgewell and people like that, you will always remember. Being in a team and playing with characters like that, because that was probably the time I enjoyed most.

13 seasons you have spent at this football club Brunty. It’s so rare in football. What was it that kept you here for so long?

It wasn’t just me, there was a good few lads in the same boat, and we were settled in the area. My wife and the two kids, who started school and the older one is in senior school now. We are all settled in the area. We enjoy living here, we have always liked it. It’s handy for us for everything we need. If we need to have family over from home, the airport is just there and you can nip down to London on the train. It’s just so easy to get about from the Midlands.

We have always liked living here so it didn’t really make any sense to change that because the club were doing well and being established in the Premier League. That was what I wanted to do and I wanted to do it here.

I’m going to put you on the spot now. What was your favourite goal you ever scored here? Is there one that sticks out?

Probably the free-kick at Everton, that probably stands out because we won the game. I have probably scored better goals but we won the game and it meant something. I scored a good goal at Villa Park but we got beat and it wasn’t a very memorable game.

In terms of your relationship with the fans over those 13 years, you have had a great relationship with the West Bromwich Albion supporters. The banner that was in the Birmingham Road End for the final few games of the season was put together by the fans and paid for by the fans. What does that mean to you?

It’s frightening. You all know me and I don’t like stuff like that, I don’t like to make things about me. It’s very much a team effort. But to be held in that esteem is great. I can’t thank them enough for the support they have given me over the years. 

Good things have to come to an end. I wish it didn’t have to, but that’s football, everybody moves on and hopefully the club keep going in the right direction. Hopefully when we are all allowed back in the stadium I will be allowed to come back and say goodbye properly. The other night was great getting promoted, but it’s not the same when you can’t celebrate with a full stadium.

In terms of the last few months Brunty, when you know that this was going to be your last season, what does that do to your mindset? Because you have been here for so long, does your mindset change? Do you start to soak everything in a little bit more than perhaps you would have done previously?

When I signed my contract the last time knowing it was two years, I had a fair idea that at 35 if I was getting another year I’d be doing well. I’ve not played a lot of football this season and it made it pretty clear that was going to be the case. Leading up to January when I thought I was probably going to be moving on, you probably become a bit more selfish and look after yourself in the right ways knowing you maybe need to be able to go and play football somewhere else for six months. When that didn’t happen I just tried to get my head down and look after myself and keep myself as fit as I can if the manager wanted to use me.

With the whole lockdown situation it gave everybody a bit of a break, but it also gave a few of us a bit of a fresh start, in a way. For me, that was my last push to try and be involved in the last few games. It would have been easy to sit there and watch the lads get on with it and go out through the side door. I never wanted to do that. It benefits me to be in the best shape I can to try and keep my playing career going. Thankfully enough the manager has seen that and involved me in a few games leading up to the end of the season.

Is that the motivation for you? The desire to keep playing football?

It has to be. Everybody you speak to tells you to play for as long as you can. I had a couple of messages from Steven Reid and Jonathan Greening, people like that and they are saying just play as long as you can. It’s not the same when you don’t play. At the minute I feel good physically.

I haven’t played a lot of football so recovering from games might be the biggest challenge I will face next season but that will all be part and parcel of it and what decision I make - if I get the opportunity to make a decision - that will be part of the decision. A manager will know that and hopefully they will look after me.

If you had to describe it Brunty, what does West Bromwich Albion mean to you?

It’s hard to describe. It’s been everything for me in my football career. Sheffield Wednesday is a massive club and I was fortunate to be there, but coming here. It feels like coming home. It feels like my Club. It means everything to me and my family. I don’t even think it’s the football, it’s all the people around it. It’s just a great place.

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