CHRIS Brunt has told fans to think twice before criticising players who struggle to bring their club form to the international stage.
The Northern Ireland winger captains West Brom and scored for the Baggies against Yeovil Town in the Capital One Cup last week, but only the world’s greatest can replicate quality at all levels.
“People sometimes ask why I never play as well for Northern Ireland as I do for West Brom, I can’t answer that,” he said.
“I am playing at the top level in England for a reason and of course I would love to be man of the match every time I play for my country.
“But only Lionel Messi is capable of that.”
The 27-year old’s suicidal back-pass to Gareth McAuley allowed Teemu Pukki to intercept and score during last month’s 3-3 friendly.
While the Premier League star could have perhaps done more to avoid such a costly error, he admits crowd pressure can have an effect and now just wants to move on.
“I hear bits and pieces from the stands at certain times.
“I would be the first to hold my hands up and say my international career hasn’t been as good as I wanted it to be.
“People don’t realise how different it is. Like I said before, at club level we know each other inside out but on international duty you’re sitting around hotels a lot and it is just totally different.
“I was really disappointed with the Finland game and so annoyed at myself for giving away a goal. I hadn’t started a game since April before then which is maybe overlooked by people but I just have to get on with it.”
Having only featured in any starting eleven against Finland and Yeovil, since April, Brunt’s priority is to now make up for the time he lost during pre-season.
“It felt great to play the full 90 minutes against Yeovil, but it isn’t enough.
“It’s now all about getting minutes on the pitch, but with the boys doing really well it will be difficult.
“I have only had about 15-20 minutes in the Premier League this season, which isn’t great, so I am just trying to get up to speed.”
Moreover, West Brom’s set-up jumps from the seniors to the under-21s, so there are no opportunities to train with the reserves.
Therefore, international duty is regarded as essential to bolstering Brunt’s club career.
“There’s no chance to do that as we have no reserve team this year. I’ve been training and that’s it.
“A lot of the stuff we have been working on with Michael O’Neill is the same stuff England manager, Roy Hodgson, does. He did a lot of it last season at West Brom, like being hard to beat. Billy McKinlay worked with Roy at Fulham and obviously a lot of Roy’s ideas have rubbed off on him.
“It may not be pretty but we want to get results. Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans will also be dangerous from set pieces and we do have good delivery, which has to be a big part of our game.”