Bruce stands firm in the face of adversity
STEVE BRUCE insists he won't quit his post as Sunderland manager despite admitting his team are on a terrible run of 11 Premier League games without victory. Kenwyne Jones' equaliser grabbed a point against Wigan Athletic, but the Wearsiders hover perilously close to the drop zone and remain desperate for a win. Bruce has called on his players to show courage when they face the division's bottom side Portsmouth at Fratton Park tomorrow evening. But the under-fire boss must cope with the loss of Jordan Henderson, the team's most consistent midfielder this season, who was stretchered off on Saturday after suffering ankle ligament damage. The club are awaiting Xray reports but Bruce fears the youngster's season may be over. The absence of Henderson, whose cross set up Jones, adds to the mounting pressure on the manager who recalled that the last time he was in charge of a team on such a bad run as boss of Huddersfield Town he was sacked from his post. In his matchday programme notes Niall Quinn hoped Sunderland supporters would show patience rather than vent their frustration. Bruce can rely on the calm-headed chairman during the current difficulties but defeat at Portsmouth would surely begin to test the patience of Quinn and owner Ellis Short. Bruce, however, was adamant that he possess the know-how to pull his team out of their slump. We've got to try and turn it around, because I agree that our form is unsustainable, admitted the manager. We've got to try and do something. I'll do my utmost. This is possibly the worst form I've ever experienced as a manager, but I'll try and turn it around. I'm the same manager as I was at the start of the season, but we've got to get back fit and firing and match fit. I don't think I've been on a run like this. Maybe when I got the sack at Huddersfield! The one thing I can look at is changing the personnel and I'll probably look at freshening things up so that at least we haven't got that as an excuse. We've got a huge big game coming up. We've got people who are champing at the bit to play and maybe I'll look at that too. The manager became a hero with Wigan supporters after he established their club as a Premier League force. But his failure to meet expectations at the Stadium of Light resulted in him being barracked by a minority of the home faithful at half-time and on the final whistle. The difficulty here is that they expect better than that,'' he insisted. Whoever comes in and has this job, the one thing they're going to have is the big, expectant demand of the supporters. The team and the manager have got to be able to handle that, that's for sure. Because to be able to play here, you've got to be a big player. We need big players to handle the occasion.'' Bruce reflected on a game when his side finished strongly after being completely overrun in the first period. Second half we were a bit better. But the first half, let's be fair, was awful. I didn't rant and rave at half time. We said look chaps, we can't fault your effort and endeavour, but you must have courage.' There are two types of courage, the one that you get a cut when you go for a challenge or the other type when you ask for the ball. That's what we must do better, take the ball and not be afraid. The manager revealed his concern about Henderson when he said: I hope it's not the end of his season, for his sake and for ours. He's had a terrific start, but the kid was in a bad way when I saw him. We'll keep our fingers crossed and hope he's okay. The youthful exuberance of him was terrific. He was the one who was prepared to take the ball in all the mayhem going on around him. He'll be a big loss to us because arguably he's been our best player. Believe me, it hurts. It hurts me. But I've never given anything before in my life and I'm not going to start now, because it's a bit tough at the minute. This is when you find out who's around you.
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