Bruce denies bust-up
STEVE Bruce has denied reports of a bust-up with Kieran Richardson, and insisted the Sunderland midfielder will be back in the first-team picture once a troublesome calf problem clears up. Richardson has not played since beckoning to the bench during the first half of last month's 2-0 defeat at Everton to signal an injury that forced him to hobble off the pitch. A weekend report claimed the midfielder then clashed with Bruce in the dressing room during the half-time interval, a suggestion that threw Richardson's longterm future at the Stadium of Light into doubt. Bruce admits that he reacted angrily to a number of his players' performances during the opening 45 minutes at Goodison Park, but categorically denies that Richardson was singled out for any special treatment. And amid sustained speculation that the England international's injury might not be all it seems, the Sunderland manager has clarified the extent of the problem that will keep him on the sidelines during tomorrow's home game with Wigan. I've seen the Kieran Richardson stories and they're totally wrong, said Bruce, who will also be without John Mensah tomorrow after the Ghanaian picked up yet another knock during Monday's goalless draw with Stoke. I might have had a bust up with a few of them in that dressing room, but Kieran wasn't involved I fell out with a few players, and rightly so given the standard of the first-half performance. But the suggestion that Kieran was singled out or anything like that is wrong. Let's put one other thing right too. Kieran picked up a hematoma in his calf against Everton and it's a really nasty problem. That was the reason why he came off, and that's the reason why he hasn't been involved since. It's nothing to do with any supposed bust up. While Richardson will not be involved tomorrow, Benjani is likely to make his debut from the substitutes' bench. His loan from Manchester City was briefly in doubt after network problems prevented Sunderland from registering it ahead of the transfer deadline, and having agreed to loan both Daryl Murphy and David Healy on Monday, Bruce was understandably relieved when confirmation of its validity came through. I knew there was a deal on the table for Murphy and Healy, he said. But with the injuries we've had, I was thinking, Can I really afford to let them go'. They both wanted to go and play football because they weren't going to do that here, but I thought to myself, If I'm going to do that, I'm going to have bring someone in'. I wanted somebody with a bit of know-how and presence, and somebody who's been there and done it in the Premier League. Obviously, I'm delighted that we've got Benjani in the end. Monday's scrambling was repeated in boardrooms up and down the land, and Bruce feels the current transfer system places unnecessary pressure on clubs to conclude their dealings on two specific dates every year. He would prefer a return to the previous system, whereby signings could occur at any point during the season. Bruce feels that would prevent the need to stockpile players, assisting clubs, which would no longer be forced to pay inflated wages to players who were not part of the firstteam pool, and players, who would be able to get regular football at a lower level rather than sit on the sidelines. Interestingly, Bruce also expects the current system to be challenged in the courts, paving the way for a Bosmanstyle ruling that could scrap transfer windows altogether. If I was a player, I'd go to the European Union and say it's a restriction of trade, he said. If you're a football player and you've missed out on a move in January, you're stuck there for six months until you can start again. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a player like Bosman who takes this on. If he did, I think we'd all welcome it. In the past, if you had four or five players injured, you'd try and loan one or buy one, and that makes sense rather than carrying the sort of squad we carry now. In my day, we had squads of 15 or 16. Now, my squad is 24 or 25 players but I can only pick 11. You can imagine what the others are like if they've got anything about them, they're not happy. If it went back to the old way, we'd all be a lot happier, and the clubs would be a lot better off because they wouldn't be carrying the kind of squads they currently do.
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