Black Cats boss defends Big Sam
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has passionately defended Blackburn counterpart Sam Allardyce amid the ongoing debate over reckless tackling. The two managers will go head-to-head at Ewood Park on Monday evening with Allardyce's approach having been questioned by Fulham midfielder Danny Murphy, who singled out his team, Wolves and Stoke for criticism over the physical nature of their play. On Saturday, Murphy insisted his comments had been "blown out of all proportion". Bruce and Allardyce are close friends and while the Black Cats boss knows exactly what to expect when he sends his team into battle with Rovers, he insists his Blackburn counterpart's reputation is unwarranted. He said: "The reason, I have said repeatedly, the Premier League is like it is is the competitiveness of it. "If we take it away, we will end up like leagues in France and Spain and Italy where, if I take you to a game, it is just all technique and there is no real physical element. "It is half the pace our games are at and if we take away that element, we will take away what we have got in this country, which is a fantastic competitive division. "I think I speak for Sam and every other manager, none of us want to go and send a team out that will physically hurt anybody else, that is absolute nonsense. "I don't know where Danny's comments have come from or why he has chosen to do that. His manager Mark Hughes, for instance, had a Blackburn team that was very competitive. "This Premier League is the way it is and the biggest spectacle that is beamed around the world because of the competitive nature of it, and if we take that away, we will just end up like everybody else." Allardyce, of course, forged his uncompromising reputation at Bolton and following a brief and ultimately disastrous spell in charge at Newcastle, where he was removed from his post by owner Mike Ashley after just eight months, has re-built it at Blackburn. Sunderland head across the Pennines having drawn with Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United in their last three Barclays Premier League games, but knowing the degree of difficulty is unlikely to drop. Bruce said: "We know what to expect. You all know I am a big friend of Sam and enjoy his company, and whenever you are up against his teams, you know physically if you don't stand up and be counted against them, you will be caught short. "He has done fantastically well to finish 10th against with Blackburn on really limited resources and selling all the players he has. "You look at his record at Bolton and he was very, very successful. "Yes, he is much-maligned for the way he plays, but it is difficult, you know it is difficult to play against them, and that's another challenge. "We have stood up to the challenge of playing against the really good football teams, now it's another challenge and that's what the Premier League is. "I hope we can handle it and cope with it, play our stuff and hopefully come out on top." Part of handling Blackburn will involve meeting force with force, and Bruce insists the travelling fans will expect nothing less. He said: "If one of my players jumps out of a tackle here, he will have 40,000 people - rightly - on his back. "They want to see their team tackle and compete for the ball. That doesn't mean to say they want these over-the-top tackles which are creeping in from these cowardly players we have got. "But the ones who are genuinely trying to tackle and make a challenge for the ball, it is part and parcel of the game and part of the spectacle."
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