EURO 2016: Chris Brunt focused on team glory rather than personal recognition with Northern Ireland

Chris Brunt
Chris Brunt

Chris Brunt admits it will be a special occasion when he makes his 50th appearance for Northern Ireland on Saturday night – but he doesn’t expect any pomp or fanfare to recognise the feat.

The captain’s armband is typically offered to players when they reach a half-century of caps.

But for Brunt, such tradition is a mere sideshow to the more pressing issue of a crunch Euro 2016 qualifier.

“Davo (Steven Davis) is the captain and I’m happy with that. I’m just one of the team.

“It’s not something I’m overly fussed about anyway, I had plenty of experience of it at West Brom and I got that taken away from me,” Brunt joked.

“I’m just proud to be out there and to get 50 caps. I don’t have to mark it with an armband, as long as we mark it with three points that’ll do me.

“To be fair reaching 50 caps has probably taken longer than I would have liked – injuries and stuff have restricted that.

“It’s something you don’t think about too much when you start playing, if you get 50 caps you’re delighted but the way things have panned out. I’m pretty fortunate to be up there.

“There’s not too many get it so it will be a proud moment.”

Brunt made his international debut in a 0-0 draw against Switzerland on August 18, 2004.

The West Brom star admits he has endured plenty of lows during his seven years with Northern Ireland.

The past 12 months have been more enlightening, however, with Michael O’Neill’s side blazing a trail in their Euro 2016 campaign.

Four wins from five games have Northern Ireland perched in second place in qualifying Group F.

They sit just a point behind Romania, who they meet on Saturday night at Windsor Park.

And while pride will punctuate Brunt’s appearance in Belfast, he would rather swap personal achievement for team success with Northern Ireland.

“Obviously the main thing for all of us would be to get qualified for the Euros,” he added.

“We’ve never done it before and it would be nice to be in the first squad of Northern Ireland players to get there.

“There has been a lot of us around a long time without getting much success. We’ve had good individual nights and a lot of bad ones as well but that’s the nature of international football.

“If we can go the whole way this year and get to the finals that would be a great achievement for us as a nation and players individually it would be great to have something when you’re looking back in 10 or 15 years on your international career that you would be able to say you played in a major tournament.”

One player Brunt believes can catapult Northern Ireland to next summer’s finals is striker Kyle Lafferty.

Lafferty has bagged five goals in five qualifiers to date.

It evokes memories of David Healy’s stellar Euro 2008 qualifying campaign when he scored a record-breaking 13 goals in 12 games.

“Kyle has scored five in five games – everything he hits is going in. You look at David (Healy) a few years ago, it was the same with him,” said Brunt.

“To be successful you need to be scoring goals, and we are doing that at present. That’s always a big part of it.

“We know we can defend well, we have had plenty of practice at it. We are drilled at our clubs on defensive stuff, so it is something we are used to. It is finding that attacking balance.”

Asked if Lafferty could eclipse Healy’s record with five games remaining in the current campaign, Brunt said: “I don’t know. Kyle has five goals so far. He has to reach 13 to equal David’s record. I certainly hope he can beat it.

“If he does then we should qualify easily enough.

“If he stays fit and isn’t suspended then he can score more goals.”