It all started off so well for Steve Bruce when he took the reins at Sunderland, and despite an alarming slump towards the end of last season, he was allowed to bring in 11 players in the summer and had the full backing of one of the most supportive back room’s in football. However, after yet another disappointing home game, fans are baying for his blood, and a poll of 100,000 Sunderland fans showed that 66% want him gone – judging by the chanting on the weekend, that figure seems closer to 666%
Despite the arrival of many new faces in the summer, the team have both failed to gel – surprising considering half of the new arrivals seemed to be ex United squad players – and not only this, but Sunderland have failed to replace the suddenly departed Gyan who left not for a better club but for a lucrative contract. The £24 million sale of Darren Bent also left the North East side short of goals, and this was never more evident than during the home defeat to Wigan – who before their trip to Bruce’s men were rock bottom of the table.
It was a game that Sunderland both on paper and in reality should have won, and the loss prompted concern from above, with a meeting between Bruce and the club hierarchy including Niall Quinn and Ellis Short scheduled for this week.
It is not as though there is a lack of potential replacements for Bruce, and despite worrying about caving to supporter pressure, the Daily Telegraph reports that the board have made discrete moves to sound out potential candidates – with the likes of Mark Hughes and Martin O’Neill names touted. Steve McClaren has also reportedly enquired about the post – yet all sound advice would be to steer clear of the failed manager, who’s best contribution would be to put his infamous brolly to use with the weather up at the Stadium of Light.
The next two games are beyond must win for Sunderland, who risk sliding into the relegation zone should they fail to come away with the full six points, and the away game at Wolves will at least give Bruce a chance without the home fans immense pressure on him. Should Sunderland lose this game however, all bets would be off as to who would be in charge come the visit of struggling Blackburn Rovers, with just three home wins being recorded in 2011 and this being simply not good enough.
Whilst the board are keen for a sense of stability, Short is fully aware that the rot has to stop, and there is time for something to be done, with Sunderland not yet in the bottom three, and the two up and coming games both 6 pointers against teams directly around them. Should Sunderland win and Bruce hold on to his job, and no other manager in the top division face the sack, it will be the first time in 100 years we have got to Christmas without this happening. Yet defeat in both will certainly see supporters fury increase and leave Bruce’s job in quite frankly an untenable position.