Stephen Hunt has thanked Arsenal star Petr Cech for not taking an “easy shot” at him after his challenge left the goalkeeper with a fractured skull.
Cech, who announced his impending retirement from football earlier this week, was injured during his then club Chelsea’s 1-0 Premier League victory at Hunt’s Reading in October 2006.
The Czech Republic international, who has worn a protective helmet on the pitch since, underwent emergency surgery to repair a depressed fracture of his skull after being carried from the pitch, leaving Hunt in the firing line.
The former Royals and Republic of Ireland midfielder told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek show: “I don’t know him personally, I don’t know him that well, but for him it would have been very easy to criticise me.
“It would have been an easy shot at me if he wanted and he never did, so that along the line of my career has helped me, I suppose, because if he did start firing some bullets at me or [had said] I was a disgrace or anything like that, then I would have been more scrutinised for the tackle.
“The fact that he has behaved the way he has all those years, I’m thankful of. He’s a wonderful keeper and, going forward, I’m sure he’ll be a success.”
Hunt revealed he has been repeatedly reminded of the incident in which Cech was hurt during the intervening years, and admitted his determination to prove himself in the Premier League may have got the better of him.
He said: “None of us wanted it to happen and it was unfortunate. It is what it is, unfortunately.
“I was devastated for him at the time and maybe when I look back on it, I could have done it in a different way as well.
“I was young and keen and hungry to do well in football and maybe the tackle was over-excited. It was my first Premier League start and I suppose only with life experience do you make mistakes and you try to move on.
“I was 24 and I’d waited seven, eight years to play in the Premier League. You’re playing games where you look at it and you go, ‘Okay, it looks a bit harsh’. Did I mean it? Of course I didn’t.
“It’s happened now and Petr has had to move on. He’s moving on with his life and he’s obviously going on to the next stage of his career and I’m sure he’ll be a success because I’ve met him afterwards and he’s been a gentleman and I really appreciate that.
“It makes things easier for everyone.”