Bruce thrilled by the new challenge ahead
FOURTEEN years after feeling new season nerves of expectation as a Manchester United player for the last time, Steve Bruce senses a similar excitement in the air ahead of his first campaign as Sunderland boss. Despite managerial spells in charge of Sheffield United, Huddersfield Town, Wigan, Crystal Palace and Birmingham City, this time already feels different for Bruce and he is the first to admit it. When Sunderland open their Premier League campaign under the 48-year-old at Bolton this afternoon, it will represent the start of an examination of his credentials after a summer of spending. In acquiring five new players since his installation in June, Bruce has invested an initial £24.5m, which could rise, depending on add-ons, to £40m. And with an intention to sign at least one, probably two, new defenders before the end of the month, Bruces spending in his first few months is likely to eclipse what Roy Keane paid out during his two summers as a topflight boss. Having been given substantial financial backing from the clubs American owner Ellis Short, who has texted his manager to say congratulations after deals have been sealed, Bruce cant wait for the campaign to start. The last time I felt this way before the start of the season was when I was a player. It was when I was at Man U and we had to go out and win the league. There was always a tingle, said Bruce. Ive just been told that theres 5,500 supporters going to Bolton. Thats one of the reasons why I came here. That explains a lot. When you think about the recession, people being on holiday, being out of work, and were taking that amount of people away with us. It shows the expectation. Now I just have to put a team together. But I genuinely havent been as excited about anything for a long, long time. I have never spent so much money in management. It shows the intention of where the owner wants to take us and what he wants to achieve. Its there for everybody to see what Ive tried to do. Ive tried to give us a bit of strength through the middle of the park, through the spine. Its cost a few quid, but I do believe weve got decent value for money. Of his five signings, Lee Cattermole and Darren Bent are certain to start, with Fraizer Campbell and Lorik Cana also in with a chance of making their Premier League debuts for the club. Bruce, unlikely to call on centre-back Paulo Da Silva, who only arrived in the country yesterday after having his visa stamped, has been weighing up whether to play with one or two strikers at the Reebok Stadium. And he will not make up his mind until later this morning, when he has carried out further assessments on Kenwyne Jones. Jones, along with Carlos Edwards, only returned from international duty yesterday lunchtime and Bruce is not convinced the Trinidad and Tobago international will be fresh after playing 90 minutes against El Salvador on Wednesday. The biggest thing in my mind at the moment is how is Kenwyne Jones, said Bruce. No matter whether they have been on holiday to the West Indies, never mind played a game, you have to assess what state theyre in, said Bruce, knowing Cana played 45 minutes in Albanias 6-1 win over Cyprus in midweek. Im sure hell want to play but Ill have to assess it. Kenwyne played the 90 minutes, thats why I didnt play him at Hearts last week. I knew that. Ideally Bruce would not have had such distractions, but it is with situations like that in mind that he wants to formulate a squad of 23 players which he can dip in and out of without worry. And that is why he will be looking to move numerous players on before the end of the month, with Anthony Stokes to Hibernian and Daryl Murphy to Ipswich the deals most likely to happen. Its inevitable there will be players going out, because it wouldnt be fair to them to keep them here, he said. There will be more going out than coming in. One player Bruce is not considering offloading is Grant Leadbitter. Leadbitter, who was the subject of an offer from Bruce last January when he was at Wigan, had been linked with a move following the arrivals of Cattermole and Cana. Bruce said: I was very close to signing Grant. Im a big admirer of his and he wont be going anywhere. He is not for sale.
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