According to The Athletic, Stoke City have been linked with a January move for West Brom veteran Chris Brunt, who has found regular minutes hard to come by under Slaven Bilic in the Championship this season.
The 35-year-old, who boasts of a staggering 49 goals and 89 assists in 415 appearances for West Brom, has well and truly established himself as a legend at the Hawthorns for all that he has done over the years but things have gone downhill for the veteran since the arrival of Bilic this past summer.
Brunt has accumulated only 4 appearances for the high-flying Baggies in the Championship so far this season, clocking up a meagre 22 minutes of league football across four substitute appearances. His lack of regular involvement in the playing XI has fuelled speculations over his future.
As per the report, the Northern Irishman is seeking a departure from West Brom in January to get more regular minutes under his belt, and Championship strugglers Stoke City are prepared to offer him an escape route, whilst the fact that he wouldn’t have to relocate is also expected to be a positive factor.
Meanwhile, Stoke City gave themselves some much-needed breathing space in the relegation battle at the bottom of the table with a resounding 5-2 victory over Huddersfield Town on New Year’s Day.
Sam Vokes, Nick Powell and Lee Gregory all got their names on the scoresheet while Tyrese Campbell bagged a brace as the Potters registered a third victory in their last six league games.
However, the victory over the Terriers took them only one point clear of the bottom three and Michael O’Neill clearly has his work cut out in ensuring another season of Championship football for the club, with the relegation dogfight in the second-tier apparently set to go down to the wire in the coming months.
To that end, Stoke City’s business in the January transfer window could be a make-or-break factor when it comes to the club’s chances of beating the drop, with plenty of gaping holes for O’Neill to fill heading into the crucial second half of the campaign.
According to a report from the Stoke Sentinel, question marks continue to linger over the futures of several players in the squad, including Joe Allen, who has emerged as a target for David Moyes at West Ham.
The report adds that Peter Etebo, who has slipped way down the pecking order since the arrival of O’Neill, could be moved on in January to fetch some valuable funds for O’Neill to initiate a squad rebuild, whilst another midfielder Badou Ndiaye is on the verge of completing a move to Turkey with Trabzonspor after playing a bit-part role. (h/t Stoke Sentinel)
Plus, with O’Neill also finding it hard to accommodate Nick Powell in his preferred 4-3-3 system and James McClean playing a wide role these days, the Potters might be better off exploring the possibility of a midfield reshuffle in January.
To put things into perspective, proven performers in English football don’t come much better than Chris Brunt and it is a no-brainer that the 35-year-old’s wealth of experience could hand a massive boost to Stoke City in their bid for survival in the Championship.
Since Brunt is familiar with O’Neill’s tactics and philosophy, having played under his stewardship in the Northern Irish international setup, the veteran could slot straight into the Potters’ playing XI if a move to the Bet365 Stadium does materialize.
Essentially a left-sided winger by trade, Brunt has illustrated the versatility to play in multiple positions across the midfield over the past decade-and-a-half, and it is easy to see that his arrival could go a long way towards increasing competition for places in Stoke’s ranks.
The Belfast-born star might have struggled to break into Bilic’s plans at West Brom but his experience and know-how at the highest level certainly can’t be played down.
Brunt’s leadership qualities could make him a big positive influence, both on and off the pitch, and his previous knowledge of working under O’Neill could come in handy for the Potters, who are crying out for some much-needed inspiration to get them out of the mess.
Having said that, Stoke City completing a swoop for Chris Brunt in January would make perfect sense for all parties involved, and he could well be the difference between securing another season of Championship football and the ignominy of relegation to the third-tier.
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