West Bromwich Albion’s Chris Brunt has been invited along to be part of Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 party in France this summer, even though he will miss the tournament through injury.
The 31-year-old utility man from Belfast is expected to be out for at least a further six months after undergoing knee surgery in early March.
But he has been invited to France by Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill.
“When the tournament starts it’ll be difficult to take,” Brunt told BBC WM.
“But I’ve spoken to Michael O’Neill a couple of times and I’ve got the opportunity to go over and experience some of it, if that’s what I want to do.”
Brunt, who is contracted for one more season at The Hawthorns, has scored 43 goals in 314 appearances since being signed from Sheffield Wednesday for £3m in August 2007.
On the plus side…
Brunt says the one benefit of suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the first long-term injury of his career, is the chance to spend a bit more time at home with his children.
“It will be a long recovery period,” he said. “But I’m now off the crutches and can walk about and drive. And I’ll be able to see a bit more of my family this summer.
“I knew pretty much immediately that this was a painful one. After two minutes, my right knee had gone pretty numb and started to swell up. By the next day, it was three times the size it usually is.”
On the other side of ‘the coin’…
Brunt’s injury came 44 minutes into the home game with Crystal Palace – just a week after the furore had finally started to die down following the coin-throwing incident after Albion’s FA Cup fifth round defeat at Reading.
He is still reluctant to talk about the coin thrown by an angry Albion fan, which left Brunt with a cut cheek and lucky not to have been blinded.
Instead, he prefers to talk about the response from disgusted Albion supporters, who held bucket collections for charity that day against Palace – and have continued to remain supportive.
“They were pretty ashamed of what went on,” said Brunt. “But the support I’ve had since has been great.
“It was good that we had all the collections for charity. All in all, from a pretty sorry incident, something decent came out of it. I’ve always had a decent relationship with the Albion fans and I can’t see that changing because of one incident, which was one person spoiling it for everyone else.”
Chris Brunt was talking to BBC WM’s Nicola Lloyd.