Bruce must transform ‘typical Sunderland’

19 December 2009 09:41
STEVE BRUCE was given a reminder of the task he faces to turn around the fortunes of Sunderland this week by a club steward.

In the aftermath of the defeat to Aston Villa on Tuesday night, a discussion with Martin O'Neill was followed by a post-match walk back to his car in the Stadium of Light car park with a Black Cats official.

While plenty of what O'Neill had to say registered with Bruce, it was the chat with the steward which occupied much of his thinking.

Undoubtedly there has been progress under Bruce but the points tally, however, suggests there is still plenty of work to be done if they are going to avoid a third consecutive season of struggle in the Premier League.

A ninth defeat of the season at Manchester City today would mean the Black Cats have the same points total (21) as they did after 18 matches last season, when back-toback wins over West Brom and Hull under Ricky Sbragia brought a pre-Christmas lift.

With that it mind, it is little wonder Bruce has been brought back down to earth after the defeat to Villa left him reflecting on a run of just one win from eight league fixtures.

A steward was walking me to my car and he said typical Sunderland'. I've heard that a lot, said Bruce.

At this moment in time, he's right. That's the thing which we have to achieve, that mentality to try to turn the club¦ it's the biggest thing that I'll have here.

When I first walked through the door, I knew everything was in place, however you need a team that can handle the expectation to play here. It's very demanding to play here, but that's the reason why I've come because of the expectation. I'm convinced that I'll get the team that I want.

There are histories at clubs and traditions and you have to look at the last decade here and they've been up and down four times haven't they

It's that which we've got to try to change, change it into a mentality of an Everton, a Villa or a Spurs, so we can be thought of in that esteem rather than being thought of as a yo-yo club, where you can half expect to get beaten off flaming Wigan.

Having formed part of the Manchester United defence that brought success back to Old Trafford in the 90s and someone who has been in management for the last 11 years, Bruce did not expect a quick fix to Sunderland's problems when he arrived.

What we must all remember is that there's been about 45 teams who have competed in the Premier League since it started in 1993, he said.

Seven or eight of those have been in since the year dot, so the 13 spare places have been between 40 odd teams. For Sunderland, it's only been two and a half years since they were a Championship team and it takes time. It takes time to build.

I was speaking to Martin O'Neill about it the other night. Before he took over at Villa, when I was competing against them at Birmingham, we finished above them consistently.

It's taken him the best part of four years to really get it where he knows he's got a team which is capable of competing at that end of the table.

The Premier League has become a tough proposition in the upper echelons of the division following the emergence of Villa, Manchester City and Tottenham, highlighted by Everton's poor start to the campaign.

But Bruce wants to make sure Sunderland continue to move forward and hopes American owner Ellis Short can see progress from the last six months.

He's looking at the long term. He wants us to be in the top half of the table on a consistent basis, said Bruce.

With his investment so far, he's entitled to feel that way, too.

Bruce accepts his squad does not have the strength in depth he would prefer but, while he hopes to deals for Adam Johnson and Maynor Figueroa in January, he will not be rushing into things.

The one thing I've never done is buy a player for the sake of it, said Bruce, who is expected to bring in Lee Cattermole today to replace suspended Lorik Cana at Eastlands.

Unless I can get the ones I want and of course I've got targets and the prices are realistic, I won't buy.

If the club's in a relegation battle or going for Europe, this or that, the last thing they want to be doing is selling one of their better players unless financially they have to.

There'll be various clubs that all the vultures will be circling and having a look at.

Source: Northern_Echo