Malbranque is back in favour at Sunderland
STEVE BRUCE has called on misfiring midfielder Steed Malbranque to stand up and be counted after the manager revealed he had disciplined the Belgian for breaching club discipline. With Sunderland facing another midfield selection crisis Malbranque is set to make an immediate return to the starting line-up this evening against fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers. Owner Ellis Short will be at the Stadium of Light hoping to see Bruce's side secure a first home league victory since last November. Bruce insists the owner's presence in the ground will not add to the pressure mounting on his shoulders but admits to grave concerns about the fitness of Lee Cattermole who last week reported back from England Under- 21 duty with a sore hamstring. Cattermole and Kieran Richardson are rated as doubtful, Andy Reid and Jordan Henderson are not expected to return for another week and David Meyler suspended, so Malbranque's reinstatement to the squad is timely. Bruce was keen to draw a line under his spat with the creative midfielder that resulted in him sitting out Sunderland's last two games. What has happened has been dealt with, confirmed the manager. It is finished. We need players like him to stand up and be counted. He has experience and he should be able to handle it with his talent. He has taken his punishment. The matter is closed. It remains confidential. Tonight's outcome could prove crucial to the Black Cats' fate this season and talks between Short and Bruce are scheduled to take place tomorrow regardless of the result against Owen Coyle's side, who are chasing a third consecutive win. Bruce, whose position is not thought to be under threat, labelled Short's continued financial backing as incredible and remains convinced he will deliver the club's London- based backer the winning team he craves. We are fortunate we have him,'' he declared. He lets you go on and do your job. Eventually I will reward him and give him the team he wants. He has only been in a year.
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