West Brom will always be home for legend Chris Brunt
Club legend Chris Brunt has thanked Albion’s fans for their unwavering support during his 13 years with the club.
It was announced back in June that the Baggies hero would be leaving the club when his contract expired at the end of the 2019/20 campaign.
In typical Brunt fashion, the Northern Irishman bowed out in style as Albion secured a record-breaking fifth promotion to the Premier League.
It’s fair to say that Brunt has experienced all the highs and lows football has to offer since joining the Baggies from Sheffield Wednesday in 2007.
And for the past seven days, the Express & Star has been publishing stories with the 35-year-old reflecting on his time at the club and getting his opinions of various issues at The Hawthorns.
But whether it’s been a season that ended in the joy of promotion or the heartbreak of relegation, Brunt has always felt unwavering support from Albion’s fans.
And that is something he is incredibly grateful for.
“Over the last few weeks - ever since I said I was leaving - the response from the supporters has been unbelievable and overwhelming,” he said.
“I do have social media but I keep it private.
“I tend to just use it for friends and family back home - I don’t use it very often.
“But a lot of stuff gets through to you, people send stuff on and it’s been overwhelming.
“It’s difficult to put into words just how much I want to thank the fans.
“I have been here a long time and you have lots of good times and you have bad times as well.
“But I think they all appreciate how hard I have worked to try and do my best for the football club and the team.
“I just want to thank them for their support and everything they have done for me.
“It could have been easy for them to turn at times - after relegations and not playing well in the Premier League. Times were tough.
“But they have always supported me and I will always be incredibly grateful for that.”
Alongside Albion’s fans, Brunt is also grateful to his wife Cathy for the role she has played in his career.
The couple both grew up in Belfast and first met at school.
Cathy then moved to England when Brunt was snapped up by Middlesbrough.
She then transferred her university course to Sheffield when he then moved on to join Sheffield Wednesday.
“I’ve dragged her around,” Brunt continued.
“She has been massive for my career.
“I think anyone who knows me away from football will say I am pretty chilled.
“I like to go home and be with my family.
“And I think anyone who knows my wife will agree that she keeps you grounded.
“She is not one to ever let you get too high or too low and I think that’s so important.
“With social media these days, it’s easy to get carried away when you do well but it’s also easy to hit rock bottom when you don’t do so well.
“I think she has been perfect in the way we live our lives and the way she views football too.
“She knows a lot about football even if she wouldn’t like to admit it - she half knows what she is talking about!
“But that helps, as well. If you have done well she’ll never say you’ve done too well but if you have done badly she will let you know! She’s a straight talker.”
Whether it’s been Tony Mowbray, Roberto Di Matteo, Roy Hodgson, Steve Clarke, Pepe Mel, Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, Darren Moore or Slaven Bilic, Brunt has been integral to all the managers he has played under over the past 13-years.
He is Albion’s record Premier League appearance holder and has won three promotions with the club.
So it’s incredible to think that - way back in 2007 - he could have ended up joining another club.
“There were other clubs interested,” Brunt said.
“It was about a week before the move went through that I found out a few clubs were keen.
“Sheffield Wednesday had sold a few players in the summer and I’d made my feelings known to the manager Brian Laws that I wasn’t overly impressed with what they had done.
“The season before we had finished quite strongly, we were just a couple of points outside the play-offs.
“They were trying to get me to stay but I wasn’t impressed with what they were doing transfer wise and the club wasn’t in a great position financially either.
“They sort of threw me under the bus a little bit in the end, they said I’d asked for too much money to stay but that was never really the case.
“There were a couple of clubs interested and Albion were the ones who came up with the money Sheffield Wednesday wanted.
“Ideally I wanted to go and play in the Premier League, my agent had held talks with a few Premier League clubs but nothing really panned out.
“So I signed for West Brom at a time when Sheffield Wednesday were happy to take the transfer fee.
“Obviously, as a young lad, finances pay a big part in your decision and West Brom offered me a good contract for my age as well.
“That is how it all went down, to be honest.
“I’d enjoyed playing against West Brom and at The Hawthorns the year before. We’d done really well - Sheffield Wednesday - in the two games.
“I’m very, very, relieved I made the decision to join West Brom now.”
Following his move, Brunt immediately felt at home in the West Midlands for a whole host of reasons.
Just a week before he arrived, Albion had signed another player who would go on to become a future legend in James Morrison.
The pair already knew each other having been together at Middlesbrough.
But there were plenty of other players who also stepped forward to ensure Brunt was comfortable in his new surroundings.
“Me and Mozza both had the same agent so when I knew the move was happening I gave him a call and he was really pleased,” Brunt said.
“Mozza is not really one to sell anything to you, he is not a man of many words. But it was great to have him here.
“We are both a similar age, his girlfriend had just moved down, my wife too.
“It just made it a little bit easier settling into the area.
“We both knew Jonathan Greening from Middlesbrough as well.
“Everyone knows what sort of lad Johno is, he is one of the nicest guys you could come across and he helped us settle in as well.
“But then you had the likes of Kevin Phillips and Paul Robinson, big characters that had played in the Premier League.
“It was a bit daunting for me to be honest because I’d come from a team that had been sort of thrown together with lower league players and these were all big-name players.
“But they all made us feel very welcome and we went on to have a successful season.”
While Brunt is now set to continue his playing career elsewhere, he says Albion will always be his home.
“It’s hard to describe,” Brunt said when asked what Albion means to him.
“It’s been everything for me in my football career.
“Sheffield Wednesday is a massive club and I was fortunate to be there, but coming here.
“It feels like coming home. It feels like my club. It means everything to me and my family.
“I don’t even think it’s the football, it’s all the people around it. It’s just a great place.”