STEVE Bruce has admitted he lives in fear of failure as he looks to relieve the mounting pressure at Sunderland with a much-needed win over Fulham this weekend.
Despite failing to win in 13 league games, Bruce has received reassurances from chairman Niall Quinn and owner Ellis Short his job is not under any immediate threat.
But, as comforting as that is, the Black Cats boss’ is not sitting any more comfortably at the Stadium of Light as he admitted his professional pride has been badly hurt by Sunderland’s dramatic slump.
“I’ve had no pressure from within the club, only support, that’s for sure,” said Bruce, who has seen Sunderland slide to within just three points of the relegation places despite occupying eighth spot in the table at the end of November.
“Pressure gets piled on from outside, but I really don’t feel that, not ever. I take the job on and the one thing that drives me is the fear of failure.
“I don’t want to fail. I’ve waited for a long time to come to a club like this and I’ll do my absolute damndest to make a success of it. “It’s not easy. And I’ve spoken to many managers
who’ve been here before me and they’ve said the same: it ain’t easy to live with the expectation.
“We’ve got to get better at it, put that right, but that can only take time. We’ve got to have players who can handle the big crowd and the big expectation, because this place has got the mentality of a top-six or a top-eight team and to be fair, we’re nowhere near that just yet.”
Nevertheless, that is what Bruce’s mission statement was when he took control of the club last summer and it is imperative he finds a solution to the team’s problems soon.
A run of four successive home games, starting against Fulham tomorrow, gives the Wearsiders an excellent chance to rediscover their form, particularly as this weekend’s visitors are just as bad on their travels as Sunderland have been. However, fail to find a win in the next few weeks and the reassurances Bruce has received are unlikely to last.
Bruce said: “Criticism and opinions is part and parcel of being a manager and you’ve got to be able to handle that. The spotlight here is on you more than some of the other clubs I’ve managed before.
“There was still a big expectation at Birmingham, it’s a big city club and of course you’re going to be questioned. What I’ve always said is judge me at the end of it and see where we are then, and if we haven’t been able to be good enough, I’ll stand up and be counted, it’s as simple as that.”
Bruce also argued that, in order to progress, Sunderland desperately need to find some stability in order for him to be able to add the quality of players needed to take the club on to a higher level. It is a familiar argument, but it does carry weight.
He said: “This club has never had a sustained period of stability and that’s what it needs. That’s the biggest challenge I had when I came in. We had a wonderful start, which lifted everybody to the rooftops, and the simple fact is that without our big players – Cattermole, Mensah, Gordon, a few others – we haven’t been able to cope. I think that would be the same with any club like ours that has been up and down the divisions like a yo-yo. That’s always been the challenge and the aim and I’m still confident that we can win back-to-back games, that we can beat Fulham and Bolton. “
Meanwhile, Bruce has admitted Kieran Richardson is highly unlikely to go to the World Cup with England as he will not take his advice and switch to left-back. He said: “I think it’s his best position, but he doesn’t want to play there. He gets his big pet lip out and he’s good at that. There could be a late call because there are not that many left-sided players in the country so who knows.”