Chris Brunt: Second leg atmosphere has rekindled the spirit of West Brom
Chris Brunt believes Albion’s valiant effort in the second leg of the play-offs has rekindled the spirit of the club.
Brunt apologised for his red card, which was incredibly the first one of his 12-year Baggies career.
But he reckons the bouncing atmosphere inside The Hawthorns has given Albion a platform for next season and healed the relationship between the fans and the club.
“The overriding feeling is that we achieved something,” said Brunt. “The atmosphere was unbelievable from the word go. It’s one of the best I’ve experienced here in 12 years.
"Hopefully we’ve got something back and we can take that into next season.
“We can look back on this night (and think) we’ve got a bit of pride back in our club that had been missing for a few seasons.
“The attendances had been dropping, we hadn’t been giving the fans much to come and see.
“They brought the noise and showed what a fantastic stadium this can be. It’s a proper old school stadium when they fill and get it rocking. Tuesday night was different gravy.”
After going 1-0 up on the night thanks to Craig Dawson’s 29th-minute header, levelling the tie up at 2-2 on aggregate, the Baggies were pushing for a winner in the second half.
But Brunt’s first red card of his Albion career in his 410th game for the club swung the tie in Villa’s favour.
“I can’t have any arguments about the second yellow,” admitted Brunt, who lunged in on John McGinn after Ahmed Hegazi lost the ball.
“The first one, I’d only made one challenge, it was a bit harsh.
“In the heat of the moment you feel you have to do something, the second one was mistimed, I was gutted to see the red.
“In 12 years, I haven’t been sent off once here. For it to be now is disappointing, I feel like I’ve let a few people down as well. That’s football, you’ve got to come back stronger from it.”
Incredibly, the ten men managed to hold on for 40 minutes and take the tie into penalties, when Villa goalkeeper Jed Steer emerged as the hero.
“We played pretty well, took away what they’re good at and created stuff ourselves,” said Brunt. “Going down to 10 men has killed us, that’s obviously my fault. I apologise for that to everybody out there.
“That took away a bit from our game but there was a reaction from the lads and the crowd - we’re probably disappointed we’re not going to Wembley.
“Penalties are horrible, there will always be somebody who feels hard done by. One goalie's going to be a hero, one isn’t, lads are going to miss penalties.
“Credit to the boys that stepped up, there were a lot of tired legs out there, they put their hands up. You can’t point any fingers at boys that missed penalties.
“We’re disappointed against our local rivals but I think we can leave the ground with our heads held high.
“It’s disappointing, it’s been a long slog this season. To miss out on the final hurdle is tough.
“We’ll dust ourselves down, see what the summer brings, and go again next year.”