Thursday 29 June 2017

Bruce given two more games to prove worth as patience wears thin

Luke Edwards

Steve Bruce will meet chairman Ellis Short and development director Niall Quinn later this week to determine whether he wants to carry on as Sunderland manager.

A large section of the club's support turned on Bruce following the 2-1 home defeat by Wigan Athletic last weekend and although there is still backing for him in the boardroom, there are also doubts.

Short and Quinn are wary of having their hand forced by the growing band of discontented among their followers, yet they also know they cannot ignore them.

Discreet enquiries have been made about the availability of potential replacements and Mark Hughes is understood to be keen to take the job should his former Manchester United team-mate be relieved.

The anti-Bruce feeling has grown steadily over the last few weeks, largely because of the team's woeful home form. Sunderland have won just three times at the Stadium of Light in 2011 and the supporters have yet to see enough evidence that the new-look side -- Bruce was forced to sign 11 new players over the summer -- is capable of gelling.

The team have been struggling to score goals following the sudden departure of Asamoah Gyan, who decided to move to the Middle East on a lucrative loan contract with Al-Ain. They have also failed to adequately replace Darren Bent, who was sold to Aston Villa for £24m back in January.

Although the mood has been tense ever since the 1-0 derby defeat to Newcastle back in August -- it no longer feels like it is a vocal minority calling for Bruce's head, the shock of the Wigan defeat snapping patience and erasing goodwill.

Nevertheless, it is understood Quinn is keen to give Bruce another two games to turn things around and expects him to still be in charge when Sunderland travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday.

Wolves are one place below Sunderland in the Premier League standings and that trip to face another side near the foot of the table is followed by a home game against Blackburn on December 11.

This means Bruce has two games that Sunderland, on paper, are expected to win. The fact the first of those is away from home ensures that there are unlikely to be any mass demonstrations against Bruce, potentially buying him some time.

Short is willing to listen to Quinn, although ultimately the final decision on Bruce's future will be the chairman's.

The American -- who does not speak publicly -- knows he has to consider alternatives in the event Bruce goes.

The Sunderland boss did sound defiant after Saturday's gut-wrenching defeat at home.

"My future is up to others but I've got no intention of walking away. That's certainly not in my nature," Bruce said. However, closer inspection of his managerial career suggests otherwise.

May 1999

Bruce leaves Sheffield United after 11 months in charge, citing shortage of funds to buy players.

May 2001

Bruce walks out on Wigan Athletic, where he was in charge for less than two months, to take over at Crystal Palace.

December 2001

Bruce is unveiled as Birmingham boss after walking out on Crystal Palace.

November 2007

Leaves Birmingham to join Wigan for a second time.

June 2009

"It didn't take much to persuade me to come here, it's a perfect step," said Bruce after walking out on Wigan to take charge of Sunderland.

Irish Independent

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