Bruce may put major alterations on hold
STEVE BRUCE has warned Sunderland supporters not to expect wholesale changes during the January transfer window. Bruce spoke of making major alterations in the wake of Sunday's dispiriting 1-0 defeat at Fulham, and his words were widely interpreted as confirmation he would be active in the transfer market next month. He hopes to be in a position to bring in one or two players, with Wigan full-back Maynor Figueroa and Middlesbrough winger Adam Johnson among his leading targets. But with most clubs reluctant to sell their players at the midway point of the season, the Black Cats boss accepts that he might have to wait until next summer before overseeing a wider overhaul of his squad. It always seems that getting the right players in, and the right value, is very, very difficult in January, said Bruce, who will also attempt to move on a number of fringe players of his own. The good teams and the big teams don't necessarily want to lose their players, especially if they're playing in Europe, having good seasons or dealing with relegation issues or what have you. So I always think it's difficult to get what you want. Certainly, if we can improve the squad, I'm sure we'll be looking. But in my experience, January in particular is usually very difficult. Saturday's home game with Portsmouth is also looking tricky, with Sunderland potentially missing five senior defenders. Phil Bardsley and Kieran Richardson are suspended, while Anton Ferdinand had a scan yesterday to ascertain the extent of an ankle injury. John Mensah and George McCartney are also nursing injuries, and Bruce could be forced to field Bolo Zenden as an emergency left-back. The Black Cats face successive home games against Portsmouth and Aston Villa in the space of four days, and Bruce will be relieved to see his side back on home soil after Sunday's defeat made it seven Premier League away games without a victory. The run shows no sign of coming to an end, and Sunderland's manager is pondering a range of changes ahead of the trip to Manchester City on December 19. We're very regimented in that respect, he admitted. We eat three hours before the game, we all try and get to the stadiums an hour-and-a-half before, we do the same sort of ritual and routines. Maybe we should change something. On Friday, in training, we had old-versus-young in training instead of England vs Rest of the World, which is what we usually have, so we tried to tweak it. But it's the mentality thing and, if we can change that and replicate the home form, which has been exceptional, we've got the makings of a decent team. The first half of Sunday's game at Fulham arguably represented Sunderland's worst 45 minutes of the season. The Wearsiders defended abysmally as Bobby Zamora headed Fulham into a seventh- minute lead, and while he was quick to assume his own share of responsibility for the goal, centre-half Michael Turner has cited the unsettled defence as a possible mitigating factor. You have to go back to August to find the last time Sunderland named an unchanged back four. We'd like to keep the same back four for a run of games, said Turner. It would help because we could get to know each other. The way it's been recently does make it a bit harder. The manager has had to chop and change and that doesn't help, but it's one of those things. We've got to do better to stay in the team. It's up to the defenders to make sure the back four's settled.
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