STEVE BRUCE has admitted the Sunderland squad he inherited was far too big to foster a strong sense of team spirit.
Bruce inherited 28 senior outfield players when he was appointed Black Cats boss in the summer, a figure he immediately felt was too large to handle.
He has spent the last three months offloading players hoarded by the club’s previous boss Roy Keane, with Roy O’Donovan becoming the 16th player to leave on either a permanent or a temporary basis when he joined Southend United on loan this week.
Bruce admits he has tended to tread more carefully at his previous clubs, but the Sunderland boss felt team spirit would suffer if he did not take drastic action immediately this time around.
“The main reason I’ve taken the numbers down is to try to create a spirit,” he said.
“Because in this huge building (the Academy of Light training ground), you’re easily lost. That’s why I’ve only got a squad of 18 or 19 now.
“When we were going away four or five weeks ago, I was looking at leaving five or six players here on a Saturday. I had to leave a fitness coach behind to train them, that’s not healthy at all.
“If those players had anything about them, they would be unhappy with not being involved on a Saturday because that’s what they should be training for.
“I want to make sure we have a tight-knit squad where you can create an atmosphere and a team spirit, and I have seen bits of it now, like when we scored last week.”
While Bruce has successfully offloaded the likes of O’Donovan, Teemu Tainio, Grant Leadbitter and Carlos Edwards in recent weeks, he still has other players who have been linked with a move away from the Stadium of Light.
Daryl Murphy, David Healy and Russell Anderson have all been touted as potential loan targets for Championship clubs this month, but Bruce insists his cutting is now at an end.
With Premier League clubs unable to add anybody until the start of January, the Stadium of Light exit door will also remain closed in the next three months.
“Roy O’Donovan has gone, but there won’t be anybody else going out,” said Bruce.
“We had 18 outfield players training the other morning and that’s about right. David Meyler and Lee Cattermole weren’t training, so once they’re added, we’ll be where I want to be."