TITUS Bramble wants to play his way to a new Sunderland contract this season.
The 31-year-old’s three-year deal runs out in the summer but he is convinced that there is a future beyond the end of the campaign – provided he can stay fit and in-form for the Black Cats.
Bramble made his first Premier League appearance of the season after replacing the injured Carlos Cuellar in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool, and is now in line to start against West Ham with the Spaniard suffering with a hamstring injury.
It is the kind of opportunity that Bramble has been waiting for, with the centre-back desperate to show that last season’s fitness and off-field problems are a thing of the past, and convince boss Martin O’Neill that he remains a valuable part of the squad.
Asked whether he feels his future lies at the Stadium of Light beyond the close season, Bramble is adamant that he can let his football do the talking from now on.
“It’s still something I’m interested in. If I’m playing games I don’t see why I won’t get offered a new contract. Of course I want to stay. I’m very happy up here and I would love to stay,” he said.
“This season I can just get my head down and focus on football – nothing else, which is the main thing. The challenge for me is to play as many games as possible because we’ve got four or five centre-halves and four of them are over 30,” he said.
“I don’t think any of us will play a full season – that’s just nature. The youngest one is Killa, who is 27 or 28. So competition for places is going to be tough, but that’s what all big clubs need.
“The manager doesn’t need to say anything to me about my future. Every year the club are looking to strengthen, obviously they got rid of Michael Turner but brought in Carlos. It’s one for one really and every year is a change.
“For me it is just a case of keeping my form together – and hopefully getting a run of games.”
Bramble stepped off the bench on Saturday and formed part of a rearguard action against Liverpool that was only breached when Luis Suarez stabbed home a close-range goal.
It was probably enough to earn him another opportunity at Upton Park, where he could be pitted against England and former Newcastle striker Andy Carroll, who is on course to recover in time for West Ham United.
“Fingers crossed I’ll be part of it on Saturday. I will just work hard all this week and see what happens at the weekend,” Bramble said. “It’ll be tough at West Ham, but then every Premier League game is difficult.
“They’ve all got good players and it will be a lot different to the Liverpool game. Thursday, Friday we’ll look at what they do and then we’ll try and work on our game. They’re out to prove that they’re good enough for this league.
“West Ham will be looking to prove a point.”
Sunderland are yet to secure their first Premier League win of the season, but Bramble has been enthused about the summer transfer business that O’Neill has conducted and is sure that they can improve on last year.
“I would say our aim is to improve on last season but we finished a bit disappointingly. We finished 14th, 15th and that was disappointing,” he said.
“We have to look at eighth or top 10 at least.”