Steve Bruce has been Sunderland's Mr Grumpy this week.
'Sunday and Monday weren't great,' he said. 'But me mam understands and we had a nice meal eventually on Tuesday.'
At the root of his displeasure was another five-goal thrashing at Manchester City on Sunday. Not quite as humiliating as the derby demolition in Newcastle at Halloween, but a pretty close second.
Seven games and two months ago, Sunderland were joint sixth with 37 points from 24 games and there was even talk of Europe. One point from the last 21 and suddenly Sunderland are closer to the Championship than the continent.
Grim and bear it: Steve Bruce needs tofind a win to lift Sunderland
Another test in a testing season for Bruce. Tomorrow he faces West Brom, one of six teams below Sunderland who they have yet to play. The significance is not lost on the 50-year-old.
'We have a seven-game season and it starts with a cup final,' Bruce said. 'The knives are out and we can't hide. We need a response so this week has been hands-on. I kicked everybody's a***s for three days and asked questions.
'I won't ever reveal what is said in a dressing room but a few things were said and will stay there.
'Two months ago we were the bee's knees. Now there is doubt and a question mark over us and we have to answer that. I have always believed in staying on an even keel so I don't get carried away when things go well and don't beat myself up when they go wrong. But I am easy fodder at the moment. The people who thought I knew what I was doing six weeks ago now think I've lost the plot.
'That' s football management. You lead from the front in difficult times, keep your head above the parapet and come out for more.'
Bruce signed a new contract in February confirmation of the trust Niall Quinn and owner Ellis Short have in the former Birmingham and Wigan boss. 'It's a good job I signed it when I did,' joked Bruce.
'I have a good relationship with Niall and everyone at the club, I think, but I can't take that for granted. I need results and at the moment I have not achieved them. I need to win a game for him and for the owner.'
Out of focus: Sunderland's last outing saw a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Roberto Mancini's (right) Manchester City
Bruce is still looking to deliver a finish in the top 10, which he insists would be a major achievement for the club.
He said: 'Our aim is top 10. This club finished seventh under Reidy twice and apart from that, in 50 years, we have never finished in the top 10 that's what we are up against.
'All of a sudden, we think Sunderland should be in the top ten. But I'm from here and I understand the expectation. People live, eat and drink football and it engulfs them. That's why I want to give them a team. That's why I came.
'If we win on Saturday, everything is hunky dory again and with six games to go we could go as high as joint seventh.
'After all the hard work we have put in, we cannot let the season fizzle away. That would be a crying shame.'
In times of adversity such as these, Bruce has a long list of ex-colleagues, friends and family who he can turn to for solace and advice. And they don't come much bigger than Sir Alex.
MY FIVE FAVOURITE MANAGERS SIR ALEX FERGUSON I'll always be grateful to him for giving me the chance to play for Manchester United. He still has that burning enthusiasm to win a treble.
BRIAN CLOUGH I'd never met him when he whacked me on the calf as I was having a pee at the PFA awards. He said 'that's what you've been doing to my son, young man, so have one on me.'
SIR MATT BUSBY wonderful knowledge. If he met you once, he remembered your name. You can still smell the pipe smoke at Old Trafford.
JOSE MOURINHO say what you like about him but his record is incredible.
BILL COLLINS my youth team boss at Gillingham. He was at the club for more than 50 years but died lastChristmas. I won't forget him.
While Bruce admitted he considered taking a break before signing his new deal 'for less than 24 hours, then I forgot about it' his former United boss still lives and breathes the Old Trafford job.
'He thrives on it,' said Fergie's former United skipper. 'He gets the energy from it whereas for 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 and then you realise it means nothing if you lose on a Saturday. You need to preserve your energy and focus on winning matches. It drains you enough getting a result without worrying about insignificant things.
'I enjoy winning football matches now more than playing. I take satisfaction out of seeing everyone else happy. It's a great feeling, although we've only won nine so it doesn't happen very often.
'Every win means we are closer to staying in the Premier League and we don't have to make 85 people redundant.
'As a player I had some good times but people forget I had a lot of hard times to get there; seven years in the lower divisions.
'Back then. a win meant I could afford the mortgage a bit better. The vast majority of lower league players play for the love of it and one win might be the bonus which pays the bills.
Putting in the hard graft: Bruce relaxes on the training ground
'I was never blessed with any real ability but I loved the game and made up for anything I lacked with sheer hard work.
'My dad worked all his life, an engineer, 30 years, week in, week out at the same machine. That is mind-boggling to me. I do not know how the hell he did it.
'I saw my mates go off to get apprenticeships on the shipyards and I went off to chase the dream of playing football and made sure I worked hard at it. I know I was so lucky to become a footballer and that is why I am still involved.'
Every 90 minutes through 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
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