Chris Brunt: West Bromwich Albion club captain to leave after 13 years

Chris Brunt applauds West Brom fans
Chris Brunt could still feature in West Brom's final nine Championship games this season

West Bromwich Albion club captain Chris Brunt is to end 13 years of service to the Baggies by leaving The Hawthorns when the 2019-20 season ends.

The 35-year-old former Northern Ireland international is Albion's longest-serving player, having arrived from Sheffield Wednesday in August 2007.

He has since scored 48 goals in 419 first-team games, but has made only nine appearances this season.

Albion head coach Slaven Bilic said: "He's been brilliant for me."

Brunt has not yet started a Championship game under Bilic, all his five league appearances this season having come off the bench.

But Bilic was fulsome in his praise, admitting: "He's so professional.

"It's not that he didn't drop one bit in his training but that he was always very respectful of the situation," he told Albion TV.

"The record will show that I am the manager who basically took away his place in the first-team starting XI."

'He's one of the reasons we're where we are'

"These situations are very, very hard for players - especially players who are long serving, are leaders, captains of the club," Bilic said.

"When they lose that power on the pitch it is hard to cope with. Every player likes to play. That is a very complex situation and can cause disturbances around the team and the dressing room.

"But, from day one, he was always there for me and my staff and the players. He is a proper club captain. He's still one of the reasons why we're where we are. He's done a bit on the pitch but he's done a lot off the pitch. The lads have enormous respect for him, and so do all my staff."

Most of Brunt's time with Albion was spent in the top flight. In fact, his 269 Premier League games for the Baggies is a club record.

And, if the Championship season plays out to a conclusion, he still has a chance of adding to his two promotions, as Albion are handily placed to go up automatically, in second.

Brunt, who was strongly linked in January with a move to join his old international boss Michael O'Neill, also scored three times in 65 caps for his country.

Analysis

BBC Radio WM's Rob Gurney:

He's a modern-day Baggies legend. Two promotions and he's still hoping to play his part in a third.

A lot of fine tributes have been made about him and, even though he's leaving, he's clearly not ready to hang up his hoots yet. He was very close to making a move to Stoke in January, don't forget.

He had two relegations, so it's not all been plain sailing. He also had that horrible incident when he was sadly hit by a coin and he had a serious knee injury that ruled him out of Euro 2016.

But he's thanked a whole host of people in the personal message he's sent to the Albion fansexternal-link for the 13 years he's had here and he's promised that when all this is over, he will come back and say his farewells properly.

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