Bruce is running out of options
STEVE BRUCE will consider increasing the size of his squad as he faces up to a midfield crisis when Sunderland return to action at Arsenal a week tomorrow. Bruce's selection problems will further increase when the Black Cats head to the Emirates Stadium, with Andy Reid becoming the latest casualty after sustaining a hamstring problem at Portsmouth. Reid has been ruled out, meaning Sunderland have learned in the last few days that their midfield options have been reduced by a three, possibly four, more in the wake of the draw at Fratton Park. Reid will join the suspended Lee Cattermole and David Meyler in the North-East along with the sidelined Jordan Henderson, while doubts remains about the fitness of Steed Malbranque after his chest pain scare on Tuesday. Bruce hopes Kieran Richardson and John Mensah will return in time, with a free weekend the perfect opportunity to put some more work in on the training ground. Sunderland's injury list has been lengthy in recent weeks, with Lorik Cana and Bolo Zenden the only players at this stage who Bruce knows he can call on to play across the middle. Having been left short of numbers on occasions in recent weeks, Bruce accepts he might have slashed the size of the Sunderland squad too soon during his first few months in charge. There's something like 23 players gone which is a huge turnover. We're talking about young players as well, said Bruce. I'd rather have a smaller squad with a bit more quality than 32. It has been drastic and when I look at it I wonder Has it been too drastic' Maybe, I don't know. But we'll judge it and assess it at the end of the season. With such a lack of options, Bruce hopes to have Anton Ferdinand available again soon. The defender has not played since December 6 and many felt he would have been sold during last month's transfer window. But Bruce claims the centre- back, an £8m signing from West Ham 18 months ago, is still in his plans. I've never really seen a lot of Anton. He turned his ankle at Fulham which was before Christmas. We looked and thought it was innocuous but he's been out for eight weeks, said Bruce. Certainly I could have done with him when we've been playing patched up teams and he's been a big player over the last two seasons. The one thing you do look for is to keep playing the lineups that have done well for us and, to be fair to Anton, we have done well with him in the team. We've missed him, we've missed Richardson as well. Ferdinand's time in the North-East has been inconsistent. At times he has looked value for money, but such displays have been followed by erratic performances. Bruce is striving for consistency from all of his players, outlining an intention to turnaround the attitudes of a club which has struggled to establish itself in the Premier League. You have probably seen big players who've been alright for Hull who might not be able to play here, said Bruce. It's the scenario of what this club is. There's expectancy of a top four, a top six club and sometimes you have to ask yourself How' What has it done I know they've got a huge ground and a big support but there's no substance to it. We haven't got a divine right just because we've got a big stadium and a huge support. It's their life, it's their passion it's what the North East is.
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