Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland v Morocco: Mystery man Chris Brunt has key role for Northern Ireland

By Stuart McKinley

Nigel Worthington played a guessing game with the press yesterday.

In a break from the norm he was happy to name his starting line-up for tonight’s Windsor Park friendly with Morocco.

After 10 names he stopped and threw out the challenge of who the final member of the team was to the assembled hacks.

It wasn’t hard to figure out who the missing man was. With a full team missing through illness or injury there is no way Worthington would consider leaving out a player who has been in sparkling form in the Premier League this season.

It is the role that Chris Brunt will be cast in against the north-Africans that throws up the most interest, though, with the West Brom man due to operate behind lone striker Rory Patterson.

“Brunt up front; playing in the hole,” revealed Worthington after the mystery was cleared up.

“That’s part of the reason for friendlies, so we can look at this. Chris is playing terrifically well for his club. He’s been playing in the wide areas for us. I think he can do a job in and around there where I just give him freedom to, when we’ve got the ball, get it to him and let him go and do his business.

“Chris has got the world at his feet. If he keeps his head down, keeps working hard at his game he can be at the top for however long he wants.

“He’s frustrated me and probably frustrated himself sometimes too. When you play for Northern Ireland in wide areas you’ve got to work up and down and that’s maybe not one of Chris’ strengths.

“We’ve an opportunity to look at something different, him playing in the whole between the striker and midfield and being a real pest for the opposition.”

Brunt will play only 45 minutes tonight, as will captain Aaron Hughes. Aberdeen’s Rory McArdle will replace the skipper at and Worthington will decide then who takes over from Brunt.

Something else to guess at, for now anyway.

NORTHERN IRELAND TEAM: Tuffey (Inverness CT), Hodson (Watford), Hughes (Fulham), Evans (Manchester United), McGivern (Manchester City - on-loan at Walsall), McGinn (Celtic), Barton (Preston NE), McCourt (Celtic), Gorman (Wolves), Brunt (West Brom), Patterson (Plymouth). Subs: Blayney (Linfield), McArdle (Aberdeen), Coates (Crusaders), O’Connor (Scunthorpe United), Magennis (Aberdeen), McQuoid (Bournemouth).

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