STEVE Bruce sends his smarting Sunderland side out to battle on the South Coast tonight insisting the club can win the Carling Cup.
The Black Cats’ second-round tie at Brighton has taken on added significance given the disappointing derby defeat by Newcastle on Saturday, but Bruce would have been treating it with respect anyway.
As an avowed believer in the competition, the Black Cats chief sees a big opportunity for progression to the later stages for his new-look squad.
That, he insists, makes it even more important they bounce back immediately from their Wear-Tyne derby woe.
Bruce said: “It is a very big cup-tie for us. You are hoping to erase the memories of what happened on Saturday – which is never easy in the North East, of course.
“We need to try to get through the cup-tie. I will be treating it as equal to anything else – as if it was a league game.
“I walked through the door saying we are in the Premier League, we can win a Cup.
“Maybe we cannot win the league, but we can win the five or six games you need to win a Cup.
“It might be difficult, but Birmingham have proved it is possible.
“If we can get into the later stages, I know what interest that would generate among the supporters.”
Bruce will ring the changes for the trip to Gus Poyet’s well-fancied Brighton, who have made a smart start to life in the Championship.
He confirmed Craig Gardner will play, with Keiren Westwood also in line for a debut in place of Simon Mignolet.
However, Bruce will resist making wholesale alterations to the side which lost to Newcastle.
He added: “I am not going to let my team selection be coloured by the defeat.
“The same 18 or 19 will be involved tomorrow. Some will play because they need to play and it would be wrong of me not to use the squad.
“The 18 or 19-man squad, whoever I put in I would expect them to do the job.
“That is not going to change just because of one defeat. People will go in who need to play will play – for one Craig Gardner will play.”
Happy to be back in action 48 hours after their weekend defeat, Bruce is nonetheless wary of the threat posed by Poyet’s side.
He added: “Unquestionably it is good to have a game straight away.
“We could not have asked for a more difficult one either. We have probably got the most difficult draw of the lot at the moment.”