A ROUND of golf with Ellis Short has convinced Steve Bruce he still has the backing of the Sunderland owner – but the Black Cats boss knows his side need to get over their early-season yips to help quell the “frenzy” surrounding his position.
Bruce’s position has come under scrutiny following a run of four Premier League games without a win – a series of results that has included the cardinal sin of losing to Newcastle in the first derby clash of the campaign.
The Black Cats boss reaffirmed his belief yesterday that his side will end the season ahead of their Tyneside rivals, but knows that will not be enough to quell what he believes is the “hysteria” surrounding their disappointing start to the campaign.
That will require wins on the board – something that Bruce hopes will happen when Stoke, along with their tranche of former Sunderland players, visit the Stadium of Light tomorrow.
Although aware that there are calls for a managerial change, Cats boss Bruce
has reaffirmed his belief that his position is safe. Not that he is taking anything for granted, even if his relationship with the key Stadium of Light power brokers remains strong.
The Sunderland boss said: “I was away with Niall and Ellis a couple of days ago. I have said repeatedly the relationship I have with them I can’t take for granted because ultimately we are in a sports industry which needs results.
“They are disappointed with the start, of course, but they also understand the job I have done and that I need more than three or four games – thankfully I am convinced that they feel that way too.
“We had a good day playing golf (in a Pro-Am competition) and we even won the thing, which always helps.
“It’s the first thing I’ve won in about 15 years since I left United – I was used to that feeling once!
“The relationship is fine but, as I have said repeatedly, I won’t take that for granted. I need to win a match for everybody to quieten the hysteria down, I am convinced of that.”
Bruce went on to mount a stout defence of his reign, pointing out the improvement in league positions secured over the last two seasons.
It is an argument that he believes makes a mockery of questions surrounding his own position.
“I think they are sensible enough to know the job I have done over the last two years,” he said. “Two years ago they were nearly relegated on the last game. But we got to our third-best position in 55 years last season and they realise we have made big changes (since).
“It is more intense up here (the North East), you get less time but it is part and parcel of it. Most of the managers will be looking at me thinking ‘It is his turn’.
“It is how you deal with it now. I have been doing it for ten years and it doesn’t get any easier – but you are judged on results, and we need a win to settle everybody down.
“We had a bad result against Newcastle which has created this frenzy and there is nothing we can do about that.
“I still believe we will finish above Newcastle and that’s the aim, but in some people’s eyes that is not enough and the one-off game is all that matters.”
Bruce is hoping to welcome back John O’Shea at right-back following Phil Bardsley’s four-game suspension for stamping on Juan Mata.
He believes the experience the former Manchester United man will bring will help the “balance” of his Black Cats.
“The most important thing to find the right balance when you make changes,” Bruce said.
“The key issue is to find the right balance in the team, which is what we are striving for. That’s the hard part – it’s all right having names on paper, but if there is one criticism which is maybe warranted it is that the balance hasn’t been quite right yet.”