Football chat is a turn-off for boss
STEVE BRUCE has taken a drastic step to avoid the football-obsessed media he's retuned his car stereo to BBC Radio 2. While supporters and players listen to sport bulletins on Radio 5 Live, Real Radio or Talksport the Sunderland boss's daily commute to and from the Academy of Light is accompanied by the soothing sounds of Chris Evans' Breakfast show and Steve Wright in the Afternoon. The Sunderland chief accepts that overseeing a 12- game run without a league win has made him one of the most under-fire managers in the Premier League. But he'd rather hear a selection of non-stop oldies than the opinions expressed by fans' phone-ins or playersturned- pundits. In the same week that Darren Bent closed down his Twitter internet account labelling it a distraction from the challenge of turning around Sunderland's slide towards the relegation zone, Bruce revealed he's made a similar gesture to block out the incessant media buzz that pervades the national game. I don't listen to it. I have Radio 2 on in the car, I wake up to Chris Evans in the morning and have Steve Wright on in the afternoon, that will do for me. Otherwise, I have found if you listen to it, it is a distraction, he declared. The first test facing the distraction- free Sunderland comes this afternoon at Arsenal, where Bruce's team will attempt to restore some pride following their most recent visit to London. Last month's mismatched contest with Chelsea, when an under-strength Sunderland were fortunate to escape with only a 7-2 defeat, was, Bruce believes, like going to war with a pop gun. His resources are again depleted for today's encounter in the capital. Sunderland's battle plans were already disrupted following the triple blow of David Meyler and Lee Cattermole's suspensions and Jordan Henderson's ankle injury before Andy Reid pulled a hamstring. Reid is officially the most prolific crosser in the Premier League, according to the latest Opta stats, firing in 249 crosses this season. The absence of his creative talents will be keenly felt in north London. With the heart ripped from his midfield, Bruce admits he may pair one of his defenders with Lorik Cana to prevent Cesc Fabregas from enjoying unfettered control of the midfield. But Arsene Wenger must also manage without some of his most influential players and Sunderland will be relieved to note that Andrey Arshavin, William Gallas and Eduardo are among those who have failed to recover from injury. Wenger's failure to secure any silverware for five years has led some commentators to question his position at the club. Bruce regards such opinions as ludicrous and another reason for tuning out of the media debate. I find it quite ridiculous we even question him,'' he claimed. When you talk about elite managers he has to be up there. He repeatedly keeps his team in the Champions League. If you had to pay to watch someone Arsenal would be the ones because of the way they play. You know that comments are part and parcel of football but you hope you can be given time. Arsenal's ability to out-pass almost any team in the world won't prevent Bruce from fielding Darren Bent and Kenwyne Jones to try to exploit Sol Campbell's lack of pace. But the Black Cats' manager admits that it's Sunderland's defensive lapses that give him cause for concern. We have conceded four times in the last few seconds of matches,'' he said. That could quite easily have given a different slant to the season but it hasn't quite gone for us. However, we must keep positive and turn it round, which I am convinced we can. Since the Everton game (January 27) I have seen little green shoots. Losing Catts is devastating to us. But it came as a shock to have all my defenders back in training, it was nice to see.
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