SUNDERLAND assistant manager Eric Black last night came out in defence of Black Cats boss Steve Bruce after their 4-0 demolition of Stoke City yesterday.
Bruce had been coming under increasing pressure given Sunderland’s poor start to the season, with their win over the Potters finally chalking up their first win of the season.
Goals from Titus Bramble, a Jonathan Woodgate own goal and Craig Gardner put Sunderland 3-0 up at half-time, before Sebastian Larsson capped off a superb display with a brilliantly taken free-kick in the second half.
The Stadium of Light manager did not appear in the after-match press conference, leaving assistant Black to bask in the glory of victory and launch a stoic defence of his boss.
He said: “Steve’s delighted with the win – any victory in the Premier League is great but under the various bits of circumstance that he’s had to deal with, I think he’ll be quite happy tonight.
“People think that Steve’s this big, robust character – but a run like we’ve just had hurts him.
“He’s a winner, he always has been and he will remain that way.
“It hurts him when it doesn’t go the way he wants it.
“I would have to say that some of the criticism, in my opinion, is unfair because he works hard to put decent teams together – but such is life. That’s the pressure of a manager in the Premier League.”
Of the victory, Black also revealed that no magic wand had been applied to engineer the win, and that nothing had been changed in training in a bid to halt the bad start to the season.
He added: “It’s always nice in a new season to get your first victory.
“Obviously we have to look at performances as well.
“It’s not been easy but in terms of performances, there have been games where we have played really well.
“I thought the boys who came in today contributed to the outcome – that’s all you can ask of the players. It’s a new team, they’ve worked exceptionally hard and their attitude has been fantastic under the circumstances that they’ve had to deal with. They played exceptionally well today.
“It’s not always easy to bring in new players and fit them into an existing structure. We’re not looking for excuses as every team has to get new players into the team and blend them in.
“I think today showed that the quality the manager has signed is there for everybody to see.
“There’s not been any pressure put upon the players internally from us. The players have trained the same way that they have from day one. There was never any problem there and we just have to leave all the external stuff to those who want to deal with it.”
And Black added: “I think the players need a little bit of a break.
“We’ve had decent performances and today showed the quality that they have.”
Sunderland were the beneficiary of a number of breaks in the first half with Stoke players making a contribution – via mistakes and deflections – before the ball entered the net.
Black reckoned they were due them given what happened against Newcastle last month saying: “The first half today resembled the first half in the Newcastle defeat. The only difference being that we got a few breaks. Against Newcastle, nobody would have argued if we had gone two or three up.
“Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and the result didn’t go our way.
“Again we have to step back a little bit away from that.
“I know it hurts and it hurts the manager especially, but it wasn’t a bad performance back then.
“However, you continue to do what you think is right and work to get a result.
“We got the breaks today. Over a season, things happen for you and things don’t.
“But if you continue to do the right things, more often than not you will get a better outcome.”