Sunderland v Bolton: Steed Malbranque back in fold despite fall-out with Steve Bruce

08 March 2010 12:42
Bruce said Malbranque has been punished for unspecified behaviour as he confirmed there had been a difference between the pair which led to the player being left out of the squad when Sunderland played his former club Fulham last weekend.

The former Tottenham player, has, however, been ushered back in the first-team fold ahead of Tuesday night's visit of Bolton to Wearside as Bruce seeks to inspire his players to their first Premier League win since November.

Premier League round-up: Sam Allardyce enjoys winning start at BlackburnFamiliarity helps Aston Villa to maintain run"Steed knows what has happened and with that he has been punished and taken his punishment and as far as I am concerned the matter is closed," Bruce said.

"It will remain confidential like anything that happens in a football club. Unfortunately with the media it always seems to get out. The matter has been dealt with. He is in the squad for tomorrow and he will play some part."

Malbranque, 30, has struggled to make an impression at Sunderland since he left White Hart Lane in July 2008 but Bruce will be hoping the Frenchman can rediscover some of his best form to give Sunderland a spark.

His midfield colleagues Andy Reid, Jordan Henderson, Lee Cattermole and Kieran Richardson are all rated as doubtful for the encounter with fellow strugglers Bolton so Bruce could end up counting on Malbranque to come good.

Bruce, who signed a three-year contract as Sunderland manager last summer, said he was hoping he would be given time to revive the club's fortunes by owner Ellis Short and chairman Niall Quinn.

"I have to say that what the owner has done for the club in a short space of time is of course one of the reasons why I came here," Bruce said.

"You hope you are given time to do the job and of course there are going to be times when it is going to be a bit tickly and make no mistakes this has been one of them.

"We just have to get on with it and that is when you look for your chairman - who we all know in football - and one of the reasons why I came here was Niall and his outlook. And that goes with the owner too who has been very supportive have to say in what he has done in a short period of time. It is quite staggering.

"We have personal contact and owner is coming to the game tomorrow and I will see him on Wednesday and of course we are all upset about what has happened but it is what it is. I never thought I could be involved in a run where we never got a result in winter. We must try to get 38 or 40 points and that way you will be safe. I am pretty convinced about that. Last year 35 was enough. I am looking at 38."

Bruce last celebrated a top-flight victory when his team beat Arsenal in early November and the run of 14 games without a win has left him perplexed.

"If someone said we would not win a game throughout winter I would have said they were crazy," Bruce said. "But that is where we find ourselves. We had the best start for 35 years and haven't won a game for three months.

"To go through three months without a win is quite unbelievable after the start we had. I am still convinced we are going to be okay.

"There are 33 points to play for so there is a long way to go yet. Yes we are absolutely upset with the lack of wins but we have lost just one of our last five and that was against Arsenal but it doesn't have the same ring because we draws keep you ticking along but don't push your up the table.

"We have to take it on the chin and try to be positive. There have been little signs of progress defensively. If we get a result we can turn our season around and I am pretty positive we can do that.

"Defensively wise were all over the place in winter, we couldn't get a settled back four and couldn't keep a clean sheet. There are little shoots of recovery and now e must handle the pressure and the crowd and fin that bit of confidence. If you could bottle that we would make a fortune.

"There is a huge expectation here and to be play here you have to be able to handle the crowd. That is a big club scenario. We have to go and entertain the crowd and have that bit of courage to take the ball and pass it."

Source: Telegraph