After Sunday's 5-0 drubbing at Manchester City, and a run of one point from the last seven games, the 50-year-old needs another stirring response from his players who face West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
Bruce says it is the start of a seven-game season. And here he tells Colin Young how, despite coming to terms with another embarrassing defeat, he remains determined not to allow Sunderland's season to fizzle out into a relegation fight.
Staying positive: Bruce has set his sights on finishing the season in the top half of the Barclays Premier League
Colin Young: How are you?
Steve Bruce: 'I've been better. If ever two games sum up management it's our hidings at Newcastle and Man City. So this week has been difficult.
'We let a lot of people down on Sunday. We have to restore pride in ourselves again. I've always said if you are going to manage in this league, whoever you are, you are always going to have a difficult spell.
'We all have one and it is my turn. Hopefully we can pull through it. We have had a terrible run with injuries, not that I use that as an excuse, and we have also played the top six.
'After Newcastle, we beat Stoke, then we drew with Tottenham and beat Chelsea so I am hoping for a similar response.
'I judge people, and myself, when you are up against it. When you've been beaten like that you have to find out who is alongside you, you roll your sleeves and come out fighting and those are my principles.
You always knew you would have your work cut out in that seven game run.
'I did but I thought we were capable of picking up more points but no one has had run of injuries like ours. It is difficult enough without having half a squad fit.'
All this coincides with losing Darren Bent.
'The big disappointment was losing Danny Welbeck the week after Darren left and he has been out for three months so we have missed that threat up front.
Big loss: On-loan striker Welbeck (right) had a spell on the sidelines earlier in the campaign
'Where we were better than most in the Premier League with Bent, Welbeck, (Asamoah) Gyan and (Fraizer) Campbell, we lost three of them and in hindsight it has been the reason. But we have conceded too many as well.
'We have to go back to being the Sunderland of five months ago and now we have players back so I don't have to make enforced changes.'
Is this like a new start to the season?
'We have a seven-game season but it starts with a cup final. We have to restore pride in ourselves again. The knives are out and we can't hide away from them.
'Two months ago we were the bees' knees. Now there is doubt and a question mark over us and we have to answer that and the only way I know is to roll up our sleeves and work hard.'
One of the worries must be, especially after Sunday, that you are not playing well.
'I think that's who we've played against. You lose a game and you lose confidence and we get that back through hard work. If we win on Saturday, everything is hunky dory again and with six games to go we could go as high as joint seventh and that has to be the aim.
'After all the hard work we have put in over the last nine months, we cannot let the season fizzle away. That would be a crying shame.
'Our aim is top 10. This club finished seventh under Reidy (Peter Reid) twice and apart from that, in 50 years, we have never finished in the top 10, that's what we are up against.
'But it's there for us. Can we grasp it and turn it round? I sincerely hope so.'
Ripped apart: Manchester City put five past Sunderland without reply last weekend at Eastlands
Two top-10 finishes in 50 years, yet the expectation at Sunderland is so great.
'That's the thing that strikes you when you come to the North East. The statistics are there, but all of a sudden, we think Sunderland should be in the top 10.
'Well, there's lots of teams out there with as big a history and tradition who want it too.
'I do understand because I am from here that the football clubs mean so much more to the people. It is a tough working class area where people expect their pound of flesh and expect players to work hard for them and go out and earn their money, I'm the same.
'When you look at the attendances at Newcastle and Sunderland every week they are incredible. For example, 90 per cent of our fans pay for their season tickets over 12 months, which is testament to them that it is their hard-earned money that pays for their seat. And I can associate with that.
'That is why I want to give them a team and that is why I came here. I could have stayed at little Wigan with no expectation, other than just to stay in the division, but I wanted this job.'
Do you see this as your best opportunity at a club?
'Everything is in place in terms of the stadium, training ground and terrific support. The big thing is keeping the club established so it fulfils everything.
'But there is an expectation here like nowhere else and I knew when I came back. It is a goldfish bowl where everybody lives, eats and drinks football, it engulfs them and with that comes expectation.
'I am trying to do my best to get the club where it should be, nestled in that top 10 and trying to get to the next level. And well. (blows out his cheeks for the biggest sigh ever).
In like Quinn: The Sunderland chairman
You mentioned signing your new contract
'Good job I signed it . . . '
You said you'd thought about taking a break
'Aye for about 24 hours. I went home and then I forgot about it. When I got the sack from Huddersfield it hurt me badly. I became reclusive, I never went to a match, don't think I left the house for five months.
'Luckily enough we were getting the house renovated so I saved myself 50 quid a day and became a labourer for the lads. That helped me but I didn't really enjoy that break if I am being truthful and that is when I knew I had to get back in.
'I had an opportunity to go into television but decided to wait for a job I knew I wanted.
'I had to ask myself if I still had the same enthusiasm and it is tough; ask anyone who has done, it. And that is why I admire people like Sir Alex (Ferguson) and Arsene Wenger who still come in every day with the same enthusiasm and love for the job.
'It is hard at times, it's hard for me now, but I only thought of it very briefly.'
How has Sir Alex managed to continue for so long?
'He thrives on it. He gets the energy from it whereas the vast majority of people, it saps the energy out of you.
'He told me when I first went into management, "don't find confrontation, it will find you" and he was so right.
'At first you obsess about everything. You look at everything and say (he shifts biscuits around on a plate) "why's that there, wouldn't that be better there?" and then you start to realise it means nothing if you lose on a Saturday.
'So you need to preserve your energy and focus on winning matches. It drains you enough getting a result without worrying about insignificant things. And you learn that because if you don't win them, you get sacked. That's why we look like **** at times. But Sir Alex thrives on it.
The relationship with (chairman) Niall (Quinn) must help
'I have a good relationship with Niall and, I think, with everybody at the club but I can't take that for granted.
'I need results and at the moment I have not achieved them. So I don't take it for granted. I need to win a game for him, and for the owner.
'I reiterate that to everybody. We all work together well and I have not had to do anything as a manager really from the day I walked in.
Words of wisdom: Bruce has taken on board what Manchester United manager Sir Alex (centre) has said
'Niall was an attraction in coming here. If you are involved in the game you understand it better and in most other walks of life, you buy what you think is the best and it makes you better.
'Some times that doesn't happen in football. A prime example is Fernando Torres. Now I know one thing, the cream always comes to the top but has spending ?50m on him made Chelsea better at the moment?
'And that is the difference with any other business. You can employ someone who you know will make you better and he will. It just isn't like that in football. There are no guarantees a signing will work.
'A lot of businessman come into football find difficult. They think because they have more money to throw at it, that will work.
'Of course money helps but it doesn't guarantee success.'
Steve Bruce was speaking at a Barclays event as part of its sponsorship of the Premier League.
Every 90 minutes throughout the season Barclays is offering fans the chance to win free tickets to Barclays Premier League matches by going to a Barclays ATM and requesting a receipt or by visiting www.barclaysticketoffice.com
Steve Bruce: Why Mr Grumpy is desperate to find his smile again at SunderlandColin Young: Sunderland thought their season was over but is this the start?Bruce fears as Sunderland slip closer to Premier League relegation scrapSunderland boss Bruce eyes Spurs target Gameiro to revitalise Black CatsAll the latest Sunderland news, features and opinion
Explore more:People: Alex Ferguson, Darren Bent, Steve Bruce, Danny Welbeck, Fernando Torres, Arsene Wenger Places: Newcastle