Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Brunt wants to swap Windsor Park's big nights for big tournaments

In recent Northern Ireland footballing folklore the highest praise is reserved for those players who achieved the historic Windsor Park victories over mighty England and Spain.

On both occasions Chris Brunt breathed the same Belfast air as the men who etched their names in history, but he can’t claim to have played a part in either of those triumphs.

Tonight gives Northern Ireland the chance to add Italy to what is a growing list of higher ranked nations who have left Windsor with their tails between their legs.

While Brunt would love to have his name mentioned alongside ten others in recording a memorable victory, he can see the bigger picture and it’s joining the men who played for Northern Ireland in the 1958, 1982 and 1986 World Cups that is his motivation.

“I remember the goal in the England game,” said Brunt.

“ I was down warming up at the corner flag at the opposite end of the ground.

“I remember Steve Davis getting the ball and playing it through to David and then seeing it hit the back of the net.

“The Spain game I was disappointed not to be involved in. I’d sat in the stand for the Iceland game on the Saturday and had hoped that I would be involved against Spain.

“I was in the stand again and I was gutted. I was delighted for the lads who went out and got the result, but I’d more of a fans’ experience of that game.

“I’ve been involved in most of the other wins we’ve got and it’s been really good to be part of that.

“Nobody can ever take it away from the lads who played against England and Spain, but I think everyone would swap those wins to have their name listed in a Northern Ireland squad that qualifies for a major championship.

“That would mean a lot more, although those wins were special moments in the careers of the players and for the fans as well.”

It is now 24 years since Northern Ireland were at a major finals and hopes of reaching a first European Championships were given a real boost with last month’s win in Slovenia.

“We are more than capable of doing it, but it’s going to have to be Slovenia away for the rest of the campaign,” said Brunt.

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