Bruce out to clean up on Turf Moor return

18 September 2009 09:12
Steve Bruce last night admitted he has made a conscious attempt to toughen up his Sunderland side in order to equip them for tests such as tomorrows away game at Burnley.

Earlier this season, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson criticised the rudimentary state of the facilities at Burnleys Turf Moor ground in the wake of his sides surprise 1-0 defeat to the Clarets.

Bruce boasts intimate knowledge of the now infamous Turf Moor dressing rooms, having cleaned them during a four-year spell at Burnley as a schoolboy, and the Sunderland boss accepts that the Premier League newcomers will attempt to turn their lack of high-class facilities to their advantage as they attempt to survive this season.

They will also adopt the same high-tempo pressing game that unsettled the Black Cats at Stoke last month, but having felt that previous Sunderland teams suffered from a soft centre, Bruce is confident that his summer changes have imbued the current side with a more resilient core.

I think the vast majority of my players will know what to expect and will be able to cope with it, said the Sunderland boss, who will give midfielder Lee Cattermole every chance to prove his fitness as he attempts to shake off a heel injury sustained on England Under-21 duty.

You definitely need certain credentials to play in the Premier League. You need a physical presence, a bit of pace and power, and if you dont teams will just blow you away.

Thats the thing with this league. Every week, you are playing against people who are big, strong, athletic and mobile, and theyre talented too. So physically, we had to change.

That change is epitomised by the likes of Cattermole and Lorik Cana, players who relish the physical side of the game and are unlikely to be fazed by a trip to Burnley.

Michael Turner is another Bruce signing who will hardly be suffering a culture shock when he travels to Turf Moor, and having started his career with Brentford in League One, the defender has followed a similar path to the route Bruce travelled in the early stages of his own playing career.

The Sunderland boss spent eight years playing with Gillingham before he moved up the ladder with Norwich and Manchester United, but before he started his professional career in Kent, he had spent his earliest footballing years at Burnley.

The Clarets forged a close relationship with Wallsend Boys Club, and Bruce was one of a number of players, including Peter Beardsley, who spent four years at Turf Moor, only to be rejected before they were able to sign apprenticeship forms.

The Black Cats boss remembers the pain of rejection vividly, and admits the experience continues to inspire him today.

I was playing with Wallsend Boys Club and one of the Burnley scouts came and took me down there, said Bruce, who is hoping to be able to name George McCartney in tomorrows starting XI after the full-back took part in full training yesterday.

I used to clean the changing rooms, so if there are any dirty marks there, theyre nothing to do with me. Unfortunately, it didnt work out. I was on schoolboy forms but wasnt offered terms and I was devastated.

Amazingly, the manager at the time, Joe Brown, went on to become the chief scout at Man United. Even more amazingly, he didnt recognise the little skinny kid from the North-East he had let go, although I did remind him.

I had a job lined up in the shipyards at Swan Hunters. I went in for a weeks work experience and my cousin had got me a job to be an apprentice plumber.

I was about to start when Peter Kirkley, who had taken me to Burnley and who still runs Wallsend Boys Club, then took me to Gillingham.

They took me on. But the sense of rejection before that has always stayed with me.

Bruces life as a young trainee was markedly different to the experiences of the current crop of youngsters who are hoping to earn professional contracts at the Academy of Light.

The days of cleaning dressing rooms and scrubbing kits are gone, but Bruce admits it is important to guard against a sense of complacency in youngsters who are still to achieve anything in the game.

The kids here are ruined,

he admitted. Theyve got the best of pitches and dont do any jobs. They have the best food, the best of everything.

And if youre not careful, it can create the other side, where they think theyve made it before they have.

Sometimes, that can be a bit of a problem. To get better as a club, you have to have the better facilities and thats been proved often enough.

But you also have to have a grounding.

Burnley boss Owen Coyle rates Bruce as a future England manager and reckons he could even succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Man United.

Coyle said: Steve Bruce is becoming a better manager year after year. Hes signed some top players and Sunderland will be onwards and upwards.

As he continues on that road, then further down the line Steve would be a genuine contender to be an England manager. The Manchester United job would probably be a dream come true for him and hes certainly going along the right steps, isnt he

Source: Northern_Echo

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