Chris Brunt has been backed to win his battle with the West Bromwich Albion hecklers as he continues to impress for the club this season.
• Evans: Quality shines through
Brunt, 28, was jeered during the 2-1 defeat at home to Fulham last season, and his recall against Crystal Palace on Saturday brought a mixed reaction from the Baggies supporters.
The club captain helped set up both goals in the 2-0 win -- the first with a pass from which Stephane Sessegnon crossed for Saido Berahino to score, and the second with a corner that Gareth McAuley headed in.
The harsh treatment of a player who has also claimed a number of other assists this season spread elsewhere in the game, and Jonas Olsson and Liam Ridgewell were both seen having words with dissatisfied spectators in the second half.
Albion’s assistant head coach Keith Downing, though, is surprised by the indifference towards Brunt, who is credited with having set up six of McAuley’s seven goals for the club.
“He’s got pass rates, he’s got assists, he’s a consummate pro, he leads the group and has a high regard within the group,” he said. “He is experienced in terms of the position he plays.
“I suppose the formation, with the two holding midfielders, and us being more attack-minded in the wide areas, may have affected people’s perception. I don’t know whether they want to see wingers who will fly past somebody and Chris isn’t that.
“He’s an influence in the middle of the park who keeps things moving. He’s more of a player’s player than other people see. No disrespect to the punters but, with the knowledge of football people, we know what value he brings. We know the day-to-day running of things. He’s waited patiently, although he has been frustrated, as you would be when you’ve been a regular for most of your time here."
Downing feels Brunt's mixed display against Palace, which brought about the boos, had something to do with the state of the pitch at The Hawthorns.
“I got wind of it with the moans and groans when he put a stray pass in but there were a lot of stray passes on Saturday," he said. "It was a scrappy game and wasn’t nice to watch. The weather didn’t help and the pitch didn’t play great, so there were lots of excuses.
“But he is an important player to the group. He’s never thrown the towel in and he was one of our best players when he came in at Fulham. He has also had niggly injuries, which haven’t helped him.
“He gives that solidity to the team, wherever he is asked to play, whether it’s centrally or on the right, blocking up one side. He fulfills the role. The players respect that and the staff respect it and there’s never a problem for him within the group.”