Chris Brunt believes Jay Rodriguez deserved his match-winning goal in West Bromwich Albion’s shock victory over Manchester United on Sunday after accusations of racial abuse against the striker were found ‘not proven’.
Rodriguez was accused by Brighton and Hove Albion’s Gaetan Bong of using racially abusive language during a Premier League match between the two clubs in January.
In his complaint, Bong said he was “100 per cent certain” that Rodriguez had told him: “You’re black and you stink.” Rodriguez denied the accusation, instead insisting he had said: “Breath f*****g stinks.”
The Football Association launched an investigation into the incident and a charge of discriminatory misconduct against Rodriguez was found ‘not proven’ by an independent panel on Friday.
The 28-year-old was pleased with panel’s verdict, claiming the “truth always comes out” on Sunday, while Brighton manager Chris Hughton said his club were “disappointed with the outcome”.
On his first appearance since Friday’s verdict, Rodriguez scored a 73rd-minute stooping header to consign United to a home defeat and confirm Manchester City as Premier League champions.
After the final whistle at Old Trafford, West Bromwich captain Brunt said of Rodriguez: “Look, obviously it has been a tough few weeks for him in the situation he was in. We all backed him, we all believed what he said was what happened.
“I think, you know, when he got the news it was sort of a weight lifted off his shoulders – I am sure for anybody it’s not a nice accusation thrown at you and he’s handled it really well, to be fair to him.
Brunt added: “He was top draw today. It’s probably one of the best games he has played for us. I am delighted for him to get the goal. He’s a top guy and all the lads really like him. He deserved that today.”
Despite their victory on Sunday, West Bromwich remain rooted to the bottom of the table, nine points off safety with four games remaining.
Brunt accepts that the west Midlands club will almost certainly play second-tier football next season though he insists that under caretaker manager Darren Moore, nobody at the Hawthorns will give up on survival until relegation is a certainty.
“Until somebody says it’s impossible for you to do it, you’ve got to keep going,” he said.
“Even when it is impossible, you’ve still got to play the games. You’ve got people paying money to come and watch. They travelled in their numbers again today. Considering the season, we’ve had, the fans have been top draw for us.
“Look, obviously the end of the season will come, as we say it is probably too little too late – it might not be, you never know, you’ve got to keep going until somebody tells you it’s not.
“But things will happen over the summer and it is up to us to make sure as a group of players, as a football club, staff, whatever it is, that we make sure we put it right and have a good go next year regardless of what division we’re in.”
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