Belfast Telegraph

Armstrong: West Brom need more players like Brunt after NI star reaches boiling point in dressing room blast


By Graham Luney

Chris Brunt's verbal Baggies blast after the weekend defeat to Huddersfield has sparked debate with the Northern Ireland international receiving both praise and criticism.

The West Brom ace's patience ran out after the 2-1 defeat and in the dressing room he questioned some of his team-mates' efforts and his manager Alan Pardew's tactics.

It was a rare outburst from the former Baggies skipper but with his side rooted to the bottom of the Premier League and haunted by relegation, he felt he had to say something.

It could be a costly reaction for Brunt as he may be disciplined by the club, even if he wasn't the player who leaked news of his strong reaction to the press.

His behaviour has attracted more negative publicity at a time when the memories of the taxi scandal in Barcelona are still fresh.

Northern Ireland international Jonny Evans, Gareth Barry, Boaz Myhill and Jake Livermore were fined the maximum two weeks' wages - the best part of £500,000 collectively - after they broke a midnight curfew during a team-bonding trip to Spain and became embroiled in a serious incident.

It is alleged the quartet stole a taxi in the early hours, after going to a fast-food restaurant, and parked the vehicle outside their city-centre hotel.

Pardew has reinstated Evans as his captain with the manager pointing out "God teaches us to forgive" but now he may also have strong words with Brunt.

Former England international and Chelsea and Aston Villa coach Ray Wilkins has slammed the player but the Belfast man's former Northern Ireland comrade Gerry Armstrong and another West Brom old boy, Kevin Phillips, have defended the 33-year-old.

Armstrong, who was Lawrie Sanchez's No.2 when Brunt made his senior international debut against Switzerland in 2004, said: "I think what happened reflects Chris' passion for the game and if the rest of his team-mates felt the same then West Brom might have a chance of turning the corner.

"You like to see players stand up and be counted. Myself and Jimmy Nicholl had a spell at West Brom but Ron Saunders came in as manager and there were changes but the club got relegated.

"Confidence is low but they are running out of games and something needed to be said. If they don't do something drastic they will go down and it will be too late. I've been in tough dressing rooms at places like Spurs and Watford and heard managers like the late Graham Taylor exchange words with players and a captain like Pat Rice stand up and get people to calm down. Passions run high, you expect to see that and players will have a voice. Chris is a quiet lad but his frustration has reached boiling point."

But Wilkins took a dim view of Brunt's outburst, arguing he was 'bang out of order'.

Asked 'Have you got a problem with what he did?' Wilkins replied: "Chris has been bang out of order. Try and sort your own life out first because it's pretty evident that the senior players at West Brom aren't performing. If you look at that squad, they should never be bottom of the league.

"If you have got something to say to the manager, then say it to him face to face. Just go and see him one to one and have a little conflab with him there.

"But to actually come out and make that statement in front of other players belittles the manager and I don't think it's very healthy for the club.

"By having a go at the players, I see nothing wrong with that. It's almost healthy when you have players having a little dig at each other, trying to get the best out of each other."

Former West Brom and Sunderland ace Phillips said he was pleased to see a player's passion come to the surface.

"That was fantastic. I think it's really good he spoke out," said the former England international. "That is the passion you need. I have got no issues with that and I'm sure Pardew hasn't either. If an experienced player wants to go into a dressing room and start digging his team-mates out, I think that's great."

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