No need to panic, despite poor run
AFTER demanding back-toback wins from his Sunderland squad, Steve Bruce was last night given the backing of the players inside the dressing room to lead Sunderland out of trouble. A failure to win any of their last 13 Premier League matches has left the Black Cats hovering nervously close to the relegation trap door for the third successive season. The situation has increased the pressure on Bruce to deliver on Sunday, when Fulham head for Wearside after a tiring trip from the Ukraine, where they drew 1-1 with Shakhtar Donetsk to progress in the knock-out stages of the Europa League last night. A failure to guide Sunderland to victory at the Stadium of Light would fuel the criticism directed towards Bruce. Fraizer Campbell and Darren Bent, however, are satisfied Bruce knows exactly what is required to survive. The manager's experience is key, said Campbell. It's important that we've got people who have been through this kind of thing before and emerged stronger for it. We will look to Steve and he will steer us through it. He is an excellent man manager and he is doing a good job with us at the moment. He knows some players need to be motivated, some need to be re-assured and he can do both. He spreads it round well. We have a squad with experience of scrapping at the bottom. Experience is vital they have knowledge and know how to get through it. Bent, a £10.5m buy from Tottenham, agreed: All the players are behind the manager 100 per cent. We know he's the man to take us forward. At every club the manager is always the one who gets the stick, but it's the players who have to perform on the pitch. Despite his confidence, Campbell has identified the four home matches in a row following the postponement of next Saturday's trip to Aston Villa because of their opponents' FA Cup commitments for a turnaround. The next four are make or break really, said Campbell, with Sunderland also facing Bolton, Man City and Birmingham. There's always a crunch time in your season and this is ours. The lads have managed to stay positive around the training ground. I don't think I've heard anyone talk about relegation so that just shows that we're confident we can set things straight and have a good finish to the season. We know things are tight around us that has been this season in the Premier League. Things have been tight from top to bottom and you can't afford to relax. Just three points separate Sunderland with the drop zone in a season when many expected much more after Bruce's installation last summer, which sparked a near £30m spending spree. With the four home dates on the horizon, five of Sunderland's six league wins this season have been at home, although the last of those was againstArsenalonNovember21. I don't know why we've been so much better at home but the stats tell you the story, said Campbell. We have got more fans at home and they can be the key factor in these next few games. It will make a big difference, getting that first win. When you haven't won for a while everyone starts reading facts to you, everyone is getting on your case a little bit but a win will boost morale and get a bit of that off our backs. Hopefully we can do it on Sunday. Despite a poor first season for the club, Campbell's fellow summer recruit, Bent, has been satisfied with life on a personal level, having hit 16 goals in his first season. I want to be here for years to come, said Bent. I feel like an honorary Mackem. I feel like I've got into the spirit of the Sunderland way. Every time I train, every time I go out on to the pitch, I want to grasp it, to show that I'm worthy of playing for a big club like Sunderland.
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