Bruce Concerned As Sunderland Strikers Continue To Fire Blanks

In terms of weather it has been a disappointing, damp, cool and cloudy August on Wearside, but Steve Bruce is feeling the heat.

Steve Bruce concerned as Sunderland strikers continue to fire blanks While it sounds faintly ludicrous for a manager to be described as under pressure so early into a new campaign, a home defeat in the derby against Newcastle United last Saturday followed by Tuesday night's Carling Cup exit at Brighton have provoked unrest among Sunderland fans.

"We now have a huge Premier League game coming up against Swansea in Wales on Saturday," said Bruce, whose side's next fixture at the Stadium of Light is against Chelsea. Aware of the local mood Craig Gardner, the midfielder recently arrived from Birmingham, said: "This is not good; now we've got to go to Swansea and get three points."

Since arriving at the Stadium of Light two years ago, Bruce has had a woeful record in both domestic cups and is still to defeat a Newcastle side who thrashed his team 5-1 at St James' Park last autumn.

Although Sunderland recovered from that blow to rise, briefly, to sixth in the Premier League, a collapse in form during the second half of the season meant their ultimate 10th-place finish was deceptive.

This summer a manager who has made big profits selling Darren Bent and Jordan Henderson to Aston Villa and Liverpool respectively, was allowed to reinvest £30m on 10 players by the club's wealthy owner, Ellis Short. In exchange, Short expects a significant improvement.

Bruce, who continues to pursue Manchester City's Craig Bellamy, accepts his existing strikers need to start scoring, fast. "Failure to take chances is our achilles heel," said the manager who started with Stéphane Sessègnon, signed as a midfielder, as his lone striker at Brighton but finished the game with Asamoah Gyan, Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-won all involved. "It's a big concern."

He is particularly worried by Gyan's lack of sharpness. Bruce said: "Something is not quite firing yet with Asamoah. I don't think his fitness levels are up to speed."

Powered by article was written by Louise Taylor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 24th August 2011 19.13 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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