Football/Soccer

Northern Ireland star Chris Brunt retires from international scene

Chris Brunt in action for Northern Ireland at Windsor Park against Switzerland, the country against which he started and finished his international career.
Staff reporter

THE lethal left foot that missed Euro 2016 will be absent forever from the Northern Ireland team after Chris Brunt announced his retirement from international football.

However, ‘Brunty’ declared that he’ll be back in Windsor Park as a supporter, and insisted that “it was always a pleasure to play in front of” the `Green and White Army’.

NI boss Michael O’Neill called the 33-year-old, who won 65 caps in a 14-year international career, “a model professional”, adding that his contribution…will be remembered for a long time to come.”

Brunt made his debut just over 14 years ago, on August 18 2004, in a 0-0 draw in a friendly match against Switzerland in Zurich. He ended his international career against the same opposition, with the same score-line, in the FIFA World Cup Play-Off second-leg game against the Swiss in Basel last November.

Chris scored three senior goals for his country. His first was a free-kick away to San Marino in 2009, while his final goal was also a free-kick – a perfectly placed strike against the Czech Republic at Windsor Park in September 2017. He also netted a low, long range drive against Azerbaijan on his return from injury in November 2016, in a World Cup qualifier.

His quality deliveries, especially from dead balls, meant that he often provided an attacking threat, notably in a classic combination with Gareth McAuley, and he played in eight of the games that saw Northern Ireland reach the Euro 2016 finals.

However, a knee injury cruelly robbed him of a playing place at the tournament. Despite that setback he still travelled to France and encouraged his team-mates in the changing room and from the side-lines.

Brunt said: “After a period of lengthy consideration I have taken the difficult decision to retire from international football.

“I have spent a lot of time thinking it over but I feel, at this point in my career, I need my sole football focus to be on helping West Bromwich Albion return to the Premier League.

“The past six years, since Michael has been our manager, have been the most enjoyable of my international career.

“It has always been an honour to represent my country but Michael restored pride following a difficult period for us as a team. He took us to a new level and for that I will always be grateful.

“He is one of the best managers I've worked with at any level of football and I have nothing but admiration and respect for the job he’s done and continues to do. Not only that, he’s also a genuinely good guy who I enjoy spending time with and learning from.

“I would also like to thank my team-mates and all of the staff who have helped me over the years. A special thank you to the medical team who gave me so much support during our last campaign, especially after my knee injury.

“To all of my family, who have dedicated so much of their lives to supporting me while representing Northern Ireland, thank you so much. I know you have enjoyed it every bit as much as I have.

“Lastly, but most importantly, I would like to thank the Northern Ireland fans, who have provided atmospheres I will remember for the rest of my days. It was always a pleasure to play in front of you. I look forward to returning to Windsor Park on your side of the white line.

“It was my pleasure.”

O’Neill added: “I am disappointed that Chris is retiring as I believe that he still has much to offer the team, however I completely understand his decision to spend a bit more time with his young family and to concentrate fully on his club career with West Brom.

“I want to thank him for everything that he gave me on the pitch.”

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