Bruce in appeal over card
SUNDERLAND have appealed against the straight red card that could rule Michael Turner out of the whole of the Christmas period. Turner was dismissed in the closing stages of the Black Cats' 4-3 defeat to Manchester City at the weekend after appearing to catch Gareth Barry in the face with an elbow. Steve Bruce was quick to brand referee Andre Marriner's decision a joke, and Sunderland officials have now backed their manager by lodging a formal appeal with the Football Association. If it is successful, Turner will avoid the mandatory three-match ban that will otherwise rule him out of the league games with Everton and Blackburn and the FA Cup third-round tie with Barrow. Bruce, however, is not holding out much hope, having previously criticised Marriner for his decision to send off Kenwyne Jones in Sunderland's 2-2 draw with West Ham in October. Because I have complained about him, I get that decision, said Bruce. I hope he can have a look at it and he can see it was a shuddering challenge between two of the most honest professionals you are going to get. Michael Turner got higher. That is the only reason he has caught Gareth Barry. You have got to raise your elbows when you are jumping for a ball. I might as well tell my centre-half not to head it next week because he might be sent off. I hope the referee looks at it again. I doubt it though. Turner's dismissal capped a miserable afternoon that saw Sunderland fail to end a winless run that now stretches to five matches, despite scoring three goals away from home. The defeat leaves the Black Cats just five points above the relegation zone, and has created an air of nervousness ahead of a Christmas spell that sees Bruce's side take on two sides in the bottom eight. This time last year, Sunderland were plunging headlong towards a relegation battle, but while their current form is hardly anything to shout about, goalkeeper Marton Fulop insists there is no chance of them being dragged into a survival scrap for the second season in a row. There will be no relegation fight, said the Hungary international, who will face competition from a fit-again Craig Gordon at the start of the New Year. We don't want to think about that this season, we want to look up. It has been a very difficult Premier League season and there are a lot of teams of good quality, but we can definitely improve on last season's finish. Last season, Sunderland only survived on the final day of the campaign, and Bruce spent more than £20m this summer in an attempt to improve a squad that was lacking in quality in a number of key areas. Some of his signings have been unqualified successes Darren Bent, Lee Cattermole, Lorik Cana while others Paulo Da Silva, John Mensah, Fraizer Campbell remain harder to judge. Fulop insists the current squad is much stronger than it was 12 months ago, and the shot-stopper expects to see Sunderland remaining in the top half of the table in the second half of the season. I know we are all disappointed, but look at the progress we have made in a year, he said. I think our squad looks a lot better. There were some very, very good signings over the summer. When you look at where we are in the table, tenth is a good position to be in considering where we were. I think everyone would accept that at the end of the season. It would be a massive step forward.
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