Poor form sees Bruce learn about expectation levels
SUNDERLAND boss Steve Bruce admits the past few months have been the toughest he has experienced in management, but insists he has learned a lot about the expectation that comes with managing a North-East club. Last weekend's win at Bolton lifted Bruce's side clear of trouble after a worrying run of eight games without a win saw the Black Cats slip into the relegation battle. That run of form also piled the pressure on Bruce, who received a wave of criticism from certain sections of fans, who were even calling for the boss to be sacked. Rewind a few months and it was a completely different story with the Wearsiders lying in sixth position having taken 37 points from 24 games, with a top-ten finish looking almost certain. Despite their abysmal run, there is still a chance Sunderland can finish in the top-ten should they win their two remaining games against strugglers Wolves and West Ham and the Black Cats boss insists that is still the aim. Bruce admits there is no room for hiding when it comes to his team's collapse, but insists that the run of eight without a win included games against five of the Premier League's top-six teams. Speaking about the expectation that comes with managing in the North-East, Bruce says he now understands how quickly things can change. "In our defence we were against the top six, we weren't against the bottom lot, but for whatever excuses we've got I know we've had major problems," Bruce said. "The vast majority can see through that, but it's made me learn how quickly the North-East changes and how difficult it is here. "I wouldn't change anything let's get that straight but it does change very quickly, it can turn here for whatever reason. "It's been the most difficult period I've probably ever had. It's taught me about the North-East too. "It's taught me about the expectation. I knew all about it beforehand, of how difficult it is, because it changes like your vest. "One minute you're going along very nicely and all of a sudden within weeks, I'm incompetent and that's how difficult it is here." Sunderland took 4,500 fans to the Reebok Stadium on Saturday, something Bruce admits highlights the hunger for success in the region. Born and raised in Northumberland, Bruce understands the passion that surrounds football in the region and admits that after spells managing in different parts of the country, nowhere is quite like the North-East. He said: "It is driven by the media, no disrespect to anyone who's involved in the media, but here we have phone-ins every night of the week on four stations. That never happens anywhere else in the country. "It's an insatiable appetite for football in the area. It's taught me a lesson but I still wouldn't swap it. "We have a level of expectation. For one thing the size of the crowds we get is fantastic. "If we get 40,000 this week we'll average over 40,000 for every home game this season and for a club like us that's quite incredible. They enjoy the football so much. "The 4,500 that went to Bolton last week. Thank God we won for them because they were terrific."
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