Chris Brunt is rapidly becoming one of the first names on the West Bromwich Albion team sheet because he has grasped what is required of him at Premier League level, manager Tony Mowbray believes.
The ability of the Northern Ireland international winger has never been in question but Mowbray said his understanding of what is being asked of him within the Albion team structure wasn’t what it could have been and Brunt was left playing a bit part at times.
However, over the last month, the 24-year-old has arguably been one of Mowbray’s most consistent performers and the Albion boss said that was because Brunt had finally come to terms with what is required of him in the Premier League.
“I think Chris is a player with so much talent that he just goes and plays the game, but I think at this level it is a lot more than just playing the game,” Mowbray said.
“He has got to harness the structure we are trying to put him in. He is working extremely hard but he finds it difficult sometimes to grasp what is required on the day because he is a talented individual.
“He has probably just always played with his talent, but he is developing and improving all the time, and his understanding of the demands at this level is also improving. I think his performances of late have shown that.
“Even prior to the last month his individual talent has never been in doubt. He can drop the ball anywhere he wants to with his left foot. What he has done better recently is to play more within the structure of the team, which means he will play most weeks now because he can do both things, he can play with the ball and work hard without it.”
Mowbray has also revealed he is in tentative talks to keep hold of loan strikers Jay Simpson and Marc-Antoine Fortune for next season, regardless of what division they are in.
The Albion boss has been impressed with both strikers and believes youngster Simpson would benefit from another season on loan from Arsenal and has raised the idea with the Gunners.
“It’s something we’ve tipped-toed into with Arsenal,” Mowbray said.
“At this moment we’ll keep those conversations in-house but it is something we’ve explored with Arsenal and we’ll see what’s decided in the longer term.
“He came on the scene and played with an innocence to his game. He gave everyone a lift and a spark, and looked very, very bright.
“The ability is undoubtedly there and it is up to us to rediscover that and give him the opportunity to rediscover that.”
As for Fortune, who is on loan from Nancy, Mowbray knows the ball is very much in the French-Guyana star’s court.
“Marc knows we would like to keep him regardless of what happens,” he added.
“He’s shown his quality and talent. Yet we’re not in the driving seat to make that decision.
“He’ll probably sit down at the end of the season and decide what he thinks. All we can do is give him a platform to enjoy his football and see where we are next season.
A very young Albion reserves side went down 1-0 at Portsmouth in the Premiership Reserve League (South) last night.
The oldest man on the pitch for Albion, who lost out to Paris Cowan-Hall’s goal, was 18-year-old Joss Labadie.