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No falling Short for Bruce as Bent strikes
Published : 10 Mar 2010 10:36:09
STEVE Bruce last night praised the support of Sunderland owner Ellis Short after a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Bolton ended a run of three-and-a-half months without a win. Having watched the Black Cats tumble down the table from afar, Short made a whistle- stop visit to the North-East yesterday, sparking speculation over Bruce's managerial future following a run of 14 league games without success. That speculation has been silenced this morning after a first-minute strike from Fraizer Campbell and a second-half hat-trick from Darren Bent enabled Sunderland to pull six points clear of the relegation zone and climb to 13th place in the table. Bruce spent almost 30 minutes locked in an intense discussion with Short in the centre- circle in the hours leading up to the game, but the Sunderland manager insists the meeting was entirely unplanned. And having guided his side to their first league win since mid-November, Bruce paid tribute to Short's unwavering support during a difficult period for everyone at the Stadium of Light. I was walking around, just went for some fresh air, and I bumped into the owner, said the Black Cats boss. It was not at all pre-planned. I've gone on record and said this before, but we are very lucky at this club to have an owner like him. That's not just bullshit. It's been a tough time, but his support, along with that of the chairman (Niall Quinn) has been spot on. We all want to try to get this right, but as I've said repeatedly, given time, we will get there. It's been a long time without a win, and if someone had told me how long we would have to wait, I would have thought it was impossible. This gets a monkey off our back, and now we want to finish the season as strongly as we can. Campbell's 40-second strike, which was the quickest Premier League goal of the season, settled the nerves which were evident before kick-off, but Bolton were threatening to get back into the game when Bent scored the first of three goals in 23 minutes midway through the second half. The England international went on to complete his first hat-trick in Sunderland colours, taking his tally for the season to 19 in all competitions. His goals have been absolutely integral to the club's survival bid, and while he failed to make the squad for last week's international friendly with Egypt, Bruce claims it is not too late for Bent to force his way into England's World Cup squad. If he hadn't thrown a penalty away to Kenwyne (Jones, against Wolves), he would already have 20, he said. No disrespect to the rest of the lads, but to be playing for a team in the bottom half of the table and to have 19 goals is unbelievable with ten games to go. He's a natural goalscorer, so he still must be in with a shout of making the World Cup squad. You've got (Wayne) Rooney and (Jermain) Defoe, but there's not many goalscorers after that. He has to be knocking on the door. We haven't had hosts of chances for a couple of months now, but he's still carried on scoring. Bruce also paid tribute to Steed Malbranque, who produced a fine display on the left of midfield after being restored to the side following a breach of discipline. Malbranque was axed from the squad for last month's goalless draw with Fulham after attending a nightclub during the build-up to a previous game, but Bruce was delighted with his response to being recalled yesterday. Steed has had a tough couple of weeks, but he was easily the best player on the pitch for me, he said. Maybe playing on the left suits him better than playing on the right. He had a great game down at Tottenham when he played on the left, and he seems to get involved there more. Fair play to him, he played very well.