Bruce reflects on horror show against Magpies
STEVE BRUCE will never forget how Newcastle United inflicted one of the darkest days of his managerial career on him last Halloween - and he has still not been able to bring himself to watch a repeat of Sunderland's horror show. The 77-day wait for Sunderland to attempt to make amends for the 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the Magpies is almost over, with preparations in full swing on the banks of Wear and Tyne ahead of Sunday's return fixture at the Stadium of Light. Bruce, speaking yesterday, brought forward his pre-match press briefing to enable him to be able to take away any distractions in the final days before Newcastle make the short trip across for the 143rd Wear-Tyne derby. Brought up a Newcastle fan during his childhood in Corbridge, Bruce's roots make him even more determined to deliver against Sunderland's old foes - something which he failed to do in October. But the memory of such a debacle, when Sunderland were second best across the St James' Park turf as a Kevin Nolan hat-trick and a Shola Ameobi double piled on the misery for Bruce and the whole of Wearside. "What did I do (after the game) I went home and went to bed," said Bruce. "I haven't watched the game again, I didn't even watch the news. It was a total blackout after that. "I kept my counsel, kept quiet, tried to dust myself down and go again. The next day was probably worse if I'm being honest. I just always feel worse the next day. I think that's what tests you. "It's your own personal pride. Most people give you a bit of banter and you could accept that, but it's your own personal pride that's hurt on the day. "After 48 hours you have to pick yourself up and that's when you earn your money. You can't be down in the dumps because you've got to lift all those people around you. "Thankfully I've got a good staff and make no mistake the players were hurting too. We've got a lot of young players and they'll only benefit from the experience. Hopefully we'll be better equipped and more ready for it." In the immediate aftermath of the defeat, Bruce left his players to reflect on their displays after making sure they knew exactly how he felt in the dressing room at St James' as the Newcastle players celebrated on the pitch. But after a week of training, Bruce instructed his squad to do what it would take to unite, so they all headed for a meal as a group to repair some of the dressing room spirit which had been damaged. Sunderland's record of just three defeats in the Premier League in their 12 matches which followed suggested that evening was a success. Bruce said: "The players at the end of that week all went out together to the local restaurant and we had a conversation - what was said will remain private. "But for all of us, it was about the response - what we were going to do and how we could put it right. Up until now we've waited patiently and had to put up with all the abuse. So I hope it's our turn." Sunderland as a club were annoyed by the way Newcastle celebrated at the final whistle, with Bruce and chairman Niall Quinn claiming there was a lack of respect shown towards their North-East counterparts. If Sunderland triumph at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, Bruce hinted it could be pay back time. All he wants to focus on, though, is ensuring his second derby in charge will not end in similar disaster. The way Bruce has led a revival since that Sunday lunch-time has put the Black Cats within touch of a European place; they are just three points off Tottenham in fourth place. Such a placing after 22 matches in the league has led to talks over extending his contract, which has 18 months to run, starting. He will, however, not be thinking about a new deal until after the Newcastle game. "I have opened up negotiations with Niall and Steve," said Bruce. "But bearing in mind the game we are playing this weekend I don't think it makes sense to talk about it now." Bruce admitted he is unlikely to make any cash offers for players on a permanent basis this month, after rejecting claims that he had made a substantial bid for Aston Villa's Stewart Downing, who he is interested in. He does remain interested in signing Paris St Germain's Stephane Sessegnon and Inter Milan's Sulley Muntari but, as reported in The Northern Echo earlier this week, nothing will be concluded before Sunday. But Bruce hopes to be able to call on Nedum Onuoha, Danny Welbeck and Lee Cattermole this weekend. Onuoha is the most likely candidate to start after emerging through training this week after a hamstring problem. Welbeck (hamstring) and Cattermole (back) are less certainties and a decision will be made in the next 24 hours. All three want to play. Bruce said: "They are desperately wanting to play of course, that is what football is all about. But I will look at the whole situation and pick the team that is physically ready."
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