Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cats Carry Burden of Earlier Failures; Impatient Fans Pile Pressure on Bruce

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cats Carry Burden of Earlier Failures; Impatient Fans Pile Pressure on Bruce

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Douglas

Sunderland 1 Wigan Athletic 1 IT is not just a run of 11 games without a win which Steve Bruce is battling to reverse at Sunderland - it is the ever-present fear which comes with more than a decade of dashed promise.

The unconvincing Black Cats are stuck in a rut of their own making, but the cauldron of seething discontent they were confronted with for 45 dreadful minutes has its roots in events which have little to do with the present crop of red and white foot soldiers.

Bruce was brought in to bring an end to Sunderland's underachievement but, despite a track record of managerial success and the biggest transfer budget in the club's history, he is finding the job every bit as tough as his predecessors.

Failing to win either of their supposed home bankers against Stoke or Wigan has left Sunderland staring down the barrel of a relegation scrap and made talk of progress under Bruce sound faintly ridiculous.

Bruce said these two home games would define the Black Cats season, and a pair of unconvincing draws in which Sunderland played well for just 45 of the 180 minutes tell a damning story.

This was meant to be the season which Sunderland finally pushed on and consolidated their top-flight status, but the evidence is pointing to another debilitating scrap at the wrong end of the table.

Given the promise of the summer months, it is unsurprising the Black Cats support is so short-tempered. It was there for all to see as Sunderland endured another bout of uncertainty against a spirited but limited Latics.

In Lorik Cana they have an excellent captain performing well below his potential and he is not alone -too many of Sunderland's good players look burdened by the discontent beginning to manifest itself on the terraces.

Bruce must find solutions, but this is easily the biggest test of his managerial career. He suffered poor spells at Birmingham, Wigan and Huddersfield - but the intense scrutiny which rests on him at Sunderland is something very different from those mid-range clubs.

The Wearsiders' outstanding supporters are not responsible for the toils of their team.

They pack away ends and can whip up the sort of atmosphere which sends opponents scuttling into their shells on their best days -just ask autumn's victims Liverpool and Arsenal.

When momentum is with the club it feels like they are unstoppable - but watching the steep decline in fortunes of a team supposed to finally deliver a top-10 finish has understandably prompted frightening flashbacks.

The 2000-1 season, the 2005-6 campaign, even last season -this run of results has awakened deep-seated fears at a club where crushing disappointment has too often followed joy and elation.

Eleven months ago, Bruce was the beneficiary as his Wigan side rolled over Ricky Sbragia's petrified side. …

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