Belfast Telegraph

Chris Brunt plans to humble European giants in France

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland star Chris Brunt has insisted the team have nothing to fear in the Euro 2016 finals and are capable of shocking some of the bigger nations.

West Brom ace Brunt is one of the most experienced players in Michael O'Neill's squad, having won his first international cap 11 years ago in 2004.

The 30-year-old has been through many tough times in a green shirt, so as you would expect he is revelling at the thought of taking on the might of Europe in a major tournament next year.

"For all the years I've experienced with Northern Ireland it's great to have something special to take out of it. Qualifying for the Euro 2016 finals gives us something to really look forward to in the summer," said Brunt, who won his 54th cap in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Finland which sealed Northern Ireland's place at the top of the Group F.

"We'll be going to France with the aim of doing the best we can. We've proved in the past we are capable of beating big teams.

"It's obviously going to be difficult because we're going to be playing against all the best teams in Europe and they're going to be highly motivated, but we have nothing to fear and nothing to lose.

"At the end of the day, nobody expected us to be in France, so we might as well go there and have a go and I'm sure that's what we'll do.

"We'll go there with the best intentions.

"You always want to test yourself against the best players. I've done it in the Premier League with West Brom, but now to get the opportunity at the Euros will be a new experience, and a fantastic experience.

"We'll keep ticking over until the middle of June next year and I'm sure Michael will leave no stone unturned in his preparation for the finals.

"We've got to go back to our clubs now and forget about the finals. That's football. As players we'll have a lot of other things to concentrate on, but I'm sure the country will be very excited for the next six months leading into the finals."

Brunt has been a consistent performer in the campaign, playing all of his games at left-back.

"It's just great to be involved and playing. I've enjoyed playing at left-back during this campaign since I had to step in for the opening qualifier in Hungary. It's kind of strange that I haven't got to play anywhere else all season," said the man with the wand of a left foot.

"Michael asked me if I could do a job there against Hungary. I knew I had experienced boys inside me in Aaron (Hughes) and Gareth (McAuley) and you just get on with it.

"Things have gone alright since then and we've always had a pretty settled back four. Even with Jonny (Evans) missing out, Craig stepped in and did really well last Thursday night against Greece and scored in Finland.

"I think I've played everywhere for Northern Ireland, apart from striker, so it's been a long road. I keep getting dropped back, so maybe the next stop will be the stand or the sub's bench!

"Wherever you play internationally or in club football, you try to do the job to the best of your ability and hopefully I've done that. Obviously Michael keeps picking me at left-back, so I must be doing alright.

"Having lads like Stuarty (Dallas) in front of you and seeing him do so well is fantastic. It's also great to see the younger lads coming into the squad. They probably don't realise how lucky they are to have achieved this.

"It's Stuart's first campaign and he's going to the Euro finals and that's just one example in the squad we have.

"There are other lads who probably didn't expect to do this.

"I think you saw when we qualified against Greece at Windsor last week the emotions and what it means to the fans and the lads who have worked really hard over the campaign with Michael and his staff to make sure we get results.

"Over the 10 games, we've won the most games and scored the most goals, so you can't ask for any more than that.

"We maybe conceded a few goals we're disappointed with, but that's irrelevant now."

Belfast Telegraph