Chris Brunt back on the grass and eyeing up a return near start of next season

Chris Brunt is hoping to be fit for the start of the season after returning to the grass this week.

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West Brom's long-serving left-back has been cooped up in the gym for months doing rehabilitation work on an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury he picked up at home to Crystal Palace in late February.

In a cruel twist of fate, it ruled the 31-year-old out of this summer's European Championships and the first major tournament Northern Ireland had qualified for in 30 years.

He admitted that watching team-mates and fellow countrymen Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans go off to France was difficult, but is pleased his recovery is going well.

After weeks of hard work, this week he tied up his trainers and made it out onto the pitch at Albion's training ground for a jog.

It's a big step on the road to recovery, but does he think he'll be back in time for that first game of the campaign?

"Difficult to say," he said. "You go on what you're told by the medical staff but I won't be too far off the start of the season. I hope to be doing bits and pieces of training in August.

"Everything has been strength based until now but it gets different when you start moving and turning and striking the ball of course.

"It's going good and all to plan as far as I know," added Brunt.

"Hopefully I can crack on over the next couple of months and do things more active.

"I've been in the gym doing strengthening work but it's nice to get outside in the fresh air and start running again.

"It's about getting your body used to different movements and will take a while to get up to speed but I'm so looking forward to getting out of the gym."

Devastated by the injury that ruled him out of Euro 2016, Brunt is still travelling out to France to be a television pundit with BBC.

But until the it's over, the pain of missing the tournament won't completely go away.

"It's been okay over the last few months," he said.

"April and May were grand but when the lads (Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley) were going to meet up with the rest of the squad, the chat on social media and then watching the friendly against Belarus . . . it was difficult not being a part of it.

"It's one of those things and there's not much you can about it. I'm just looking forward to the new season and getting fit for Albion again."

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