Belfast Telegraph

Chris Brunt has anxious wait to discover his Euro 2016 fate

By Stuart McKinley

Chris Brunt's Euro 2016 dream will lie in the hands of a specialist today.

Scans and checks on a knee injury, which he sustained while playing for West Bromwich Albion against Crystal Palace on Saturday, will ascertain the full extent of the damage he has suffered.

They will also determine the length of time that the Northern Ireland international will spend on the sidelines and there are fears that it might run into months rather than weeks.

And if that is the case then his dream of playing for Northern Ireland at this summer's European Championship finals in France could be over, dealing him a hammer blow.

Baggies manager Tony Pulis said: "Chris Brunt is going to see a specialist so we will wait until he's done that until we announce what is exactly wrong with him.

"There are all sorts of different opinions so we will wait until the specialist sees him.

"I have only seen it from a distance so we will wait until the specialist sees it and makes an assessment and then we will let people know."

There are fears that the injury, which led to Brunt being stretchered off the field just before half-time on Saturday, could be to his cruciate ligament.

If that is the case, with a minimum nine-month recovery period, the 31-year-old will be spending the summer fighting his way back to fitness rather than facing Poland, Ukraine and Germany in the biggest games of his international career.

Even if the news is more positive, depending on how serious the damage is, Brunt could be facing a race against time, with just 13 weeks to go until Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has to name his squad for the finals.

Pulis already has a contingency plan to cover for Brunt's absence and O'Neill may adopt the same tactics should he lose Brunt.

Ahead of tonight's meeting with Leicester City, Pulis said: "Jonny Evans will come into it if he's fit but basically it will be a similar team to Palace."

Brunt has won 54 caps since making his Northern Ireland debut against Switzerland back in 2004 and he - like the rest of his colleagues in the international squad - has been relishing the prospect of playing in his first major tournament since qualification was secured in October.

The excitement only increased when the draw pitted Northern Ireland against world champions Germany in their final group game - when a number of the squad are expected to bow out of international football, unless the team make it through to the last 16.

Brunt played in eight of Northern Ireland matches during the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, playing the full 90 minutes in all but one of them, filling in at left-back, where he had also been performing at club level after being converted from a left winger.

O'Neill will be left with something of a headache in that position if Brunt is ruled out for the long-term.

Belfast Telegraph