Chris Brunt: Jonas Olsson punched me in the ribs – as we stood in West Brom wall!

He is a Baggies legend and one of the most popular players to ever wear the famous blue and white stripes.

Chris Brunt has a special place in the heart’s of all Albion fans for the outstanding service he gave the club between 2007 and 2020.

Now the 36-year-old has entered the world of coaching after accepting a role with the under-23s earlier this month.

And the midfielder has given the Express & Star a unique insight into his former team-mates after taking part in our ‘squad of the century’ challenge for our Baggies Broadcast podcast, which is out now via our website.

Previously we asked fans to put together a dream team of players who have performed for the Baggies from the year 2000 onwards.

Squads had to be submitted in a World Cup format with three goalkeepers and cover for every position.

And now Brunty has also taken part – with his results fascinating.

Here we reveal which goalkeepers and defenders he chose before wrapping up the midfielders and attackers tomorrow.

When it came to his shot-stoppers, Ben Foster, Dean Kiely and Boaz Myhill the men to make the cut in Brunty's squad.

Explaining his selections, Brunt said they are the keepers he played with most during his time at The Hawthorns.

And he revealed current Watford glovesman Foster was the best goalkeeper he played with.

“Foz (Foster) is the best goalie I have ever played with,” the 36-year-old said.

“He wasn’t that bothered about training most weeks – he sort of just threw himself about some days. There were days when we’d just let him do what he wanted.

“You see his YouTube channel now with his cycling, he would just come in some days, said he had cycled and that was it.

“I think he is the same at Watford now. He dictates what he does day-to-day.

“But when somebody puts in performances like that on a Saturday you can’t argue.

“He is a top, top goalie and a great lad as well.”

During his time at The Hawthorns, Myhill often played second-fiddle to Foster.

But Brunt said he too was a great goalkeeper and also conducted himself impeccably when he wasn’t playing.

“Everyone will tell you the same thing about Boaz,” the former Northern Ireland international continued.

“A lot of people will say he didn’t play enough but I think he played 80 or 90 games and never let anybody down when he was called upon.

“He was great to have as back-up to Fozzy.

“He will openly admit Fozzy was the best goalkeeper at the club and that he deserved to play.

“As a sub goalie it’s black and white – you are either playing or your not.

“I think having somebody like that around, with his character and attitude – he was just a good person to have at the football club. And that’s the same now in his coaching role with the club.

“When he is at the training ground you can see how everybody reacts to him. He is a funny guy, easy going.”

Kiely was the other goalkeeper to make it into Brunt’s 23-man squad.

And he admitted he was stunned by how good the former Charlton keeper was in the latter stages of his career.

“Dean Kiely – I can’t even remember what age he was when I signed – he must have been 37 or 38,” he added.

“I just couldn’t believe how good a goalkeeper he was.

“Even when he made the transition to being a goalie coach, he still joined in training and was as good as anybody else – it was frightening.

“That first season here we got promoted and I think he got the golden glove for the most clean sheets.

“He was old-school, a great guy and somebody who is always a great character to have around the place.”

Moving on to the defenders, in the fan vote, Jonas Olsson, Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans, Steven Reid, Paul Robinson, Craig Dawson, Neil Clement and Kieran Gibbs topped the poll.

Brunt, though, went for Olsson, McAuley, Evans, Reid, Robinson and Liam Ridgewell.

“Liam Ridgewell is in for his character – not in for football reasons,” Brunt joked.

“I played in front of Ridgey a lot. He joined in the January. Roy Hodgson signed him. And he made a massive difference around the place.

“We became a more solid Premier League team and I had a really good relationship with him on the pitch.

“You knew what you were going to get from him. And he was a great lad in and around the training ground and on pre-season trips.

“He’s not the brightest in the world but he liked to have a laugh.”

At centre-back, Brunt said Olsson, McAuley and Evans picked themselves.

“Jonas and Gareth represent how solid we were in the Premier League for those seasons,” he continued.

“Nobody knew too much about Jonas when he arrived. I had been away on international duty and came back and was like ‘who is this guy, he is a bit of a lunatic’. But then he grew on everybody.

“He is an angry, angry man on the the football pitch and that was the same in training as well.

“Away from the place he is a great guy. He phoned me the other day, we keep in touch.

“On the pitch, though, he is horrible. He was horrible to us as well – it wasn’t just the opposition.

“I remember one day, we were playing Sunderland – Peter Odemwingie scored on his first game.

“Gabriel Tamas gave away a stupid free-kick on the edge of the box late on.

“I had a bit of a pop at him because that is what I did when I was younger, you get a bit angry.

“We were lining up the wall and Jonas punched me in the ribs and told me to get on with my own job.

“I stood there and thought ‘has he actually just punched me?’ I’m stood next to him in a wall and he has punched me in the ribs. I could not believe it.

“Afterwards he couldn’t remember, he didn’t even know he had done it.

“That’s just what he was like, he a nutter – but a great guy.”

Brunt revealed he played a key role in McAuley joining Albion from Ipswich.

“I knew Gareth before he signed for West Brom and I’m still waiting for my cut of his deal – he still owes me for that,” the midfielder continued.

“I remember Dan Ashworth (technical director) asked me about him and who his agent was. Dan took Roy Hodgson down to watch him play for Ipswich in the derby against Norwich. They got beat 5-1 and he scored an own-goal!

“Dan came back and was taking the mickey out of me for saying he was a good player. But Roy liked what he saw and the rest is history.

“To play the number of games in Premier League he did at the level he did was amazing.

“The way he looked after himself as he got older was amazing.

“On the international scene as well, he just went from strength to strength

“He is like a god to some people at home for the goal he scored at the Euros

“He made me, or whoever was taking the set-pieces, look a lot better.

“You put the ball in an area and he was unbelievable at attacking it. His timing in the air was the best I have seen from anybody.”

“Jonny too is top player. I knew from Northern Ireland and how good he was.

“He is a bit of a weirdo – he is nuts. He used to stare at walls or stand in the corner and talk to himself. He is a bit mad.

“Maybe that is why he is such a good player, he thinks a lot.

“He is a deep thinker about football and a lot of other stuff.

“When he came down to sign, I was injured and doing some rehab.

“When he walked in I burst out laughing, I was like ‘what are you doing here? Why are you leaving Man United to sign for us?’ Tony Pulis was the manager and Johnny is a total footballer.

“It wasn’t really a signing I expected.”

On his final selections – Reid and Robinson – Brunt said: “Reid almost became a cult figure. He came as a midfielder off the back of a lot of injures.

“And he ended up playing as right-back.

“I don’t think people understood what he put himself through during the week to get himself out on the pitch.

“His body was in bits. The amount of stuff he did, pain killing and gym work to get ready to play was unbelievable.

“It’s old-school mentality isn’t it? It probably doesn’t happen as much now. But he was determined to play every week.

“He came in during the season we got promoted with Robbie Di Matteo and he was a big figure when we went on to stay in the Premier League.

“He was well respected by all the lads and if you did something wrong he would let you know.

“At the time I was captain but there were a lot of lads there who everybody had a lot of respect for.

“That group was more than capable of policing itself and he was a big part of that.

“And then there is Robbo. He was brilliant with me when I first signed.

“He looked after me. He played behind me and really, really, helped me.

“Everyone knows how much he loved a tackle and how committed he was.

“From my point of view, though, he really helped me settle into West Brom.”

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News