Preview: West Brom legends Chris Brunt and James Morrison grateful for chance to give back

Shunning Sunday League action, pedal power and training with Albion’s first team – Chris Brunt and James Morrison have opened up on their fitness programme, or lack of, ahead of tomorrow’s eagerly-anticipated Clash Of The Legends.

James Morrison of West Bromwich Albion celebrates after scoring his goal with Chris Brunt of West Bromwich Albion.
James Morrison of West Bromwich Albion celebrates after scoring his goal with Chris Brunt of West Bromwich Albion.

The Baggies greats have selected two squads of former team-mates to compete against each other at The Hawthorns in the aid of charity for The Albion Foundation.

Two popular promotion-winning managers also make their return to the Albion dugouts, with Roberto Di Matteo in charge of Team Brunty and recently-appointed Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray at the helm of Team Mozza.

Both Brunt and Morrison are no strangers to The Hawthorns and Albion’s training base in Walsall. Brunt has been trying his hand coaching some of the Baggies’ junior sides while Morrison has been first-team coach since late 2020, initially appointed by Sam Allardyce.

They will captain their sides in what is an unofficial testimonial for 13 and 12 years service to the club, respectively, throughout a period of top-flight security and progress.

But are they in shape for tomorrow?

Brunt, 37, smiled: “Should we have gotten ourselves into fitness? I do quite a lot of cycling and did a bit of running.

“Nobody is ever the same, once you stop training full-time.”

Morrison added: “I’ve had the privilege of joining in a couple of times with the lads so, touch wood, I think I’m alright. I’ve picked up a few injuries along the way!

“I blocked a shot the other day and my ankle blew up!

“We’re doing it for a great cause, and also, the club are giving it back to us for our service. I see it more for the charity side, and I’m looking forward to it.”

The pair amassed 762 appearances for Albion between them having signed within a couple of weeks of each other in August 2007. They earned Championship winners medals under Mowbray in a memorable debut campaign. Following top-flight relegation there was another promotion, as runners-up, under Di Matteo.

“I don’t think either of us thought that when we signed,” added former club captain Brunt. “We had a good group of lads who progressed at similar stages of their careers. It all just came together. Then, towards the back end, they probably couldn’t get rid of us.”

The pair reflected on how careers flashed by in the blink of an eye. Morrison said: “It went so quickly in the end.

“I remember getting to 25; the next minute I’m 32 and on the way. I don’t think I ever thought about doing all of them years, but at the end, you look back and think, ‘Wow! I’ve done 12 years, there.

“Once you stop, you’re only got memories. We’ve got fond memories with all the guys. That’s one thing I’m looking forward to, just sharing stories and laughing.

“Playing on the pitch, as well, because once you stop, you don’t play. My friends have tried to get me down to Sunday league, and I’ve watched it and thought, ‘not a chance!’ It’s been a long time coming with Covid et cetera, so I’m glad we have got round to it.”

Northern Irishman Brunt said: “You don’t really enjoy it until the later stages of your career, either. When you’re a bit younger, and in the swing of things, you took it day-by-day and game-by-game, trying to stay in the Premier League. We had great success, but it went by in a blur.”

Albion’s modern-day heroes turning up once more at The Hawthorns tomorrow include Ben Foster, Paul Robinson, Robert Koren, Gareth Barry, Peter Odemwingie, Jonas Olsson, Steven Reid, Paul Scharner, Graham Dorrans and even Bob Taylor among many more – with around 10,000 supporters likely to be watching on during the international break.

For Brunt and Morrison, who still live locally, tomorrow will also be a family affair and the pair are looking forward to their children taking in the atmosphere and celebrating the occasion.

“My kids haven’t really seen me play,” admits Mozza. “To be involved on a matchday for them I’m quite excited for them to walk on the pitch with us.

“Even though it’ll be a bit difficult to get my little lad to come on the pitch, I’ve got to bribe him!

“In that sense I’m quite proud of what has been achieved. At the end of the day it’s all for them, isn’t it.

Brunt added: “I hope they don’t have this on Saturday to remember as their lasting memory!

“My eldest saw us play quite a lot, he was born the season we signed, he’s not really into football but my youngest is more into it.

“He missed some and only really saw the tail-end of it, so it’ll be nice for them to see that.

“It doesn’t happen so much in football anymore, does it? There’s so many other factors involved like agents and stuff and it benefits people to move around a lot more than probably it did when we were playing.”

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