Bruce is determined to give fans big-name signing
STEVE BRUCE plans to snap up his first signings of the summer quickly, but has revealed a marquee signing is in Sunderland's thinking before the start of next season. As soon as the Black Cats have ended a disappointing campaign at West Ham United tomorrow, Bruce has hinted that chairman Niall Quinn will quickly turn his attention to finalising deals for a few free agents. But while the likes of Blackpool's David Vaughan, Birmingham's Seb Larsson and Cardiff's Jay Bothroyd are all in his sights as they edge closer to the end of their contracts, the Sunderland boss hopes to be given the funds to further strengthen a light-weight squad. Charles N'Zogbia, Kevin Doyle and Jermain Defoe are among Bruce's targets and he will be discussing what money there is available with Quinn once the trip to Upton Park is over. One or two things are imminent, said Bruce. Every club will be looking at the Bosman market, and usually in that situation the players want to be fixed up pretty quickly. I am confident there will be a marquee signing. We have to look at the strength of our strikers and we don't have many. In the Premier League they have to make an impact. I am seriously hoping there will be funds available. I am aware we have to strengthen our strikers and get them here. Even if Asamoah Gyan is fit to end the season on the bench tomorrow, Sunderland will have only one recognised first-team striker in their match-day squad. And with Fraizer Campbell ruled out for most of next season too, and injured Danny Welbeck already back at Manchester United ahead of the end of his loan, Bruce could do with at least two new strikers. But adding to his options further up the pitch are not his only intentions, with new players right across the pitch likely to be targeted as he aims to replace those he will lose. Welbeck, Sulley Muntari, John Mensah and Nedum Onuoha are all coming to the end of their loans, while Bolo Zenden will be leaving. We went into the season with 24 players and five of those were loans, said Bruce, who will turn Ahmed Elmohamady's short-term switch into a permanent arrangement. We have two or three not available for next year. There are seven or eight players out of 24 we have to make up for. I have to try to do something. I need midfield players, I've no real cover for full-backs. We have to be actively looking again to get in what we can. We are not alright anywhere on the pitch. We are not alright in defence, midfield or in the striker area. The goalkeeper is knackered as well. Bruce and Quinn have spoken about changing the mentality surrounding Sunderland for the last two years and it saddens the manager to be heading into a summer of huge change once more. He does, though, insist progress has been made after ensuring that Sunderland will be playing a fifth consecutive season in the top-flight for the first time in 27 years. Bruce said: We have to accept we are trying to go from where we were two seasons ago, from (Anthony) Stokes, (David) Healy and (Daryl) Murphy as your strikers, to within 12 months having (Darren) Bent, Gyan, Campbell, Welbeck. That's light years ahead of where we were and we need to keep improving, like a Bolton. If Sunderland can return from already relegated West Ham tomorrow with a win then there is an outside chance they will finish in the Premier League's top ten, which was the target last August. But the campaign will end in a sense of what could have been for Sunderland. A run of just seven points from a possible 39 has led to a drop out of contention for a European place since late January. We know we have to improve in certain areas, but it's a fine line, he said. How do we get more We are Sunderland at the end of the day and two years ago we were in a relegation fight. Could I have got more out of them Possibly. Could we have got five or six points more Possibly. But that's the big frustration, we only had to be average to get a point a game to be further up there. It would not have changed the mood, but had we been ninth now that would have been better. However, the frustration is that we have gone from here (he points high) to there (he points low). And Bruce, who knows it could be worse ahead of a trip to West Ham where angry home fans are likely to be hurt by the prospect of Championship football, admits he has never encountered as much frustration as he has in the last few months. I need a break. It's been the toughest, hardest three months I have been involved in since starting out 30-odd years ago - as a player as well, he said. We have questioned medical people, doctors, surgeons, sports scientists, you question everything. I will not make anyone the scapegoat for it. I don't regret anything. It's a great club. I wanted the challenge of taking this club forward and getting in to the top ten is my aim and we will go again.
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