Brunt set for NI 'hole' role

Nigel Worthington feels Chris Brunt could become one of the game's biggest stars - and wants him to 'pester' Morocco on Wednesday night.

Last Updated: 16/11/10 at 18:49   

Brunt: Will play in a more advanced role

Brunt: Will play in a more advanced role

The West Brom winger was linked with Liverpool over the weekend as plaudits for his prominent role in the Baggies' fine start in the Premier League continue to roll in.

National team boss Worthington feels he is yet to see the best of the best of the 25-year-old in a Northern Ireland shirt but puts that down to the responsibilities of the position at international level being slightly different.

Worthington has therefore decided to experiment with the former Middlesbrough trainee in a more advanced role in Wednesday's friendly against Morocco at Windsor Park.

"Chris has got the world at his feet," Worthington said. "He is big, he has got two great feet and a powerful left foot.

"If he gets his head down and keeps working hard at his game, he can be at the top for however long he wants.

"He's frustrated me and probably frustrated himself sometimes - when you're playing for Northern Ireland in wide areas you've got to work up and down and that's maybe not one of Chris' strengths.

"Tomorrow night we'll get the chance to look at something different, him playing in that hole between the striker and midfield, getting on the ball, passing and getting shots off, being a real pest from the opposition's point of view.

"That is part of the reason for friendlies, we can look at this."

Brunt will play behind lone striker Rory Patterson in an attack that is not only inexperienced, but in a team that is barely recognisable from the last one fielded.

Only captain Aaron Hughes, Jonny Evans and Ryan McGivern survive from the side frustrated by the Faroe Islands last month after Worthington was hit by a raft of withdrawals.

Rangers defender Andy Little on Tuesday became the 12th player to pull out since the squad was named after going down with a virus, but midfielder Michael O'Connor has recovered from his own illness.

Worthington will hand a first cap to Preston midfielder Adam Barton as he attempts to lure the player away from England.

The 19-year-old, who is eligible for both countries, rejected a competitive call-up last month in order to keep open the option of representing England.

Playing in a friendly, however, would not prevent him changing allegiance at a later date and, after he agreed to join up, Worthington is determined to make him feel welcome.

He said: "We have got to have respect for the young lad and his decision.

"We invited him in a month ago and somebody talked to him to say don't go. "But we do what we do best, we keep chipping away, encouraging.

"All we can do is make him feel welcome, show him what we have got, sell ourselves in the best light.

"If that is good enough at the end of the day, great. If for whatever reason he or anybody should go elsewhere, good luck to them.

"We are doing our work to unearth young players - that is the way it has got to be.

"We have got to look at every possible opportunity to see who is available. "We haven't got sufficient numbers in this country or are we producing players on a regular basis to maintain where we want to be."

Worthington believes the Morocco test can stand his team in good stead even though the side he sends out will be far from his first-choice XI.

Watford defender Lee Hodson will also win his first cap while Inverness goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey has a chance to state his credentials to succeed absent veteran Maik Taylor in the long term.

Worthington said: "We have had a lot of eastern European football over the last couple of campaigns.

"Morocco are different, they look to pass the ball.

"It is not like the British style which is very much up and at them. Hopefully it will be a good football game. I'm going into tomorrow night with a lot of excitement.

"It is about giving the young players every encouragement. I have great belief and faith."

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