Tuesday 23 January 2018

Bramble to play on

Sunderland defender Titus Bramble is in line to return to action on the pitch after being bailed by police investigating an allegation of rape.

The 29-year-old hit the headlines yesterday after being arrested in connection with an incident at a Newcastle hotel.

Chairman Niall Quinn last night insisted Bramble, a summer signing from Wigan, is innocent and manager Steve Bruce today added his backing.

The former Ipswich and Newcastle player missed Tuesday night's 2-1 Carling Cup defeat by West Ham with a slight knock, but trained this morning after being questioned by police and is in line to start Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with Liverpool at Anfield.

Bruce said: "He wants to play. He wanted to be in this morning and he wants to go and put the record straight. He wishes he could, but legally we can't.

"But we want the case resolved and I just want to reiterate what Niall said, that we are all behind him, we are all 100pc convinced that he has got nothing to do with this allegation and we will get on with it and hope the conclusion comes quickly.

"He wants to just go and play and forget about it. It's unfortunate, what has happened, but he plays, it's as simple as that."

While the Black Cats are confident Bramble has committed no criminal offence, his presence in Newcastle on Tuesday night was a breach of club rules and he could yet find himself in hot water closer to home.

Bruce said: "All I will say is the disappointment I have is that he shouldn't be out on a Tuesday night in a nightclub, and he knows that. But that's his only offence.

"The rest of it, we hope that the matter - and I speak for everybody now - can just be dealt with as quickly as possible and will sort itself out quickly, because it needs to."

Bruce could have done without having one of his players caught up in a police investigation during a week in which the optimism garnered from a deserved 1-1 draw with Arsenal was dented by the club's tame cup exit three days later.

The trip to Anfield will hand them a chance to bounce back, and they will at least be strengthened by the return of skipper Lee Cattermole from a two-match suspension imposed for his second red card in just four games of the new season.

However, after thinking long and hard about the 22-year-old's disciplinary problems, Bruce has decided not to take the armband from him.

The manager said: "I made a decision at the start of the season - and a conscious one - that he is the captain, and I am going to stand by him. He is still my captain.

"I was convinced it was the right thing to do when I gave him it, and after what has happened to him, I am still convinced that in the long term, Sunderland will benefit from Lee Cattermole being the captain of the club.

"The other night, we missed Lee Cattermole. I genuinely think the team is better when he is in it."

However, Bruce admits the tough-tackling midfielder has got to rein himself in if he is to shed an emerging unwanted reputation.

He said: "His mentality has to change. Once you are tarnished like Vinnie Jones in my era, or Joey Barton, if you get tagged with it, it is very, very difficult to take it away.

"There is this reputation that he has, unfortunately, and he has got to rid himself of it.

"The only way he can do that is by playing games regularly, staying on the pitch, keeping his nose clean and getting on with the game, which is the most important thing."

Press Association

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