Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland v Slovenia: Revenge not a priority for Brunt

By Graham Luney

Footballers have vivid memories when it comes to games they have lost.

When Slovenia players run out against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park tonight, they will think back to Corry Evans’ sensational winning strike that broke their hearts in Maribor last September.

It was a down to earth experience for a team that was expected to push on after their World Cup adventure. Tonight, Matjaz Kek’s men have the opportunity to serve up the cold dish of revenge and in the process, torpedo Northern Ireland’s Euro 2012 qualifying hopes.

But the visitors, who also lost 1-0 at Windsor Park in a World Cup qualifier with Warren Feeney on target, have won just two of their last eight European Championship qualifiers away from home.

Northern Ireland have won five of their last seven European Championship qualifiers at Windsor and West Brom winger Chris Brunt is not worried about the ‘revenge factor’.

“I don’t think they will be motivated by revenge, they need the points as much as we do and that’s everyone’s goal — to try and qualify for the championships,” said Brunt. “Slovenia had a taste of it in the World Cup and they are probably disappointed with their start in this campaign.

“Making the World Cup finals shows how strong they are but there is no reason why we can’t trouble them at Windsor Park, like we have done before.

“Until the game the other night we had only conceded one goal so it was very disappointing to concede the two goals in such a short space of time. But we will pick ourselves up and go again. It was the same in the last two campaigns when we fought back to keep ourselves in the mix. It is important we can stay in there fighting.”

The 26-year-old, who claimed an assist for Gareth McAuley’s headed goal in the 2-1 defeat in Serbia, is expected to play just behind lone frontman Warren Feeney.

“I’m pretty comfortable playing in a forward role but it’s down to the manager,” added Brunt.

“The first half was more enjoyable in Serbia but each game is different and teams approach games differently so if I can made an effective contribution to Northern Ireland in that position I’m happy to do that, I’ll do what I’m asked to do for the team.”

Boss Nigel Worthington asked some of his young lions to wrestle with Serbia in Belgrade and Brunt has backed his manager’s decision to look to the future.

“We have had a young squad so that was always going to happen,” added the Belfast man. “Nigel has done that a lot. He has brought young players into the squad ever since he started.

“Everyone has seen them develop over the last few seasons and it was only a matter of time before they would be needed as we aren’t getting any younger.

“These lads will be taking Northern Ireland on to the next campaigns. I don’t think anyone let themselves down.”

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