Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bruce Makes Cats Fitness Pledge; Bruce Makes Black Cats Fitness Pledge

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bruce Makes Cats Fitness Pledge; Bruce Makes Black Cats Fitness Pledge

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Brown

STEVE Bruce insists his Sunderland stars will be in the "best condition possible" for the start of the Premier League season.

And the Black Cats boss has challenged them to kick off the new campaign by improving on last year's opening spell. The Sunderland squad - minus Paulo Da Silva and Cristian Riveros, who remain on World Cup duty with Paraguay - report for pre-season training next Wednesday and after a week of rigorous fitness drills, travel to Ireland, Portugal and Germany for a series of warm-up games.

They get their league campaign under way at home to Birmingham City on Saturday, August 14, followed by matches against West Brom, Manchester City and Wigan, before the more daunting prospect of fixtures pairing them with Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. However, in warning his players that preparations will be testing, Bruce believes he is tailoring Sunderland's pre-season to ensure they are capable of at least matching the form they began last term in - when they won five of their first 10 league games.

"I just can't wait to get out there and get training underway," Bruce said.

"We've carefully planned things to ensure the players are in the best condition possible when the season starts. "We have arranged a tough series of pre-season games and I expect the trip to Portugal to be very beneficial as well. "The start of pre-season training is always exciting and this year will be no different. It certainly won't be easy for the players. "We have a lot planned for them and hopefully we can get off to as good a start as we did last year, or even better." Joining those preparations next week, it seems, will be Egyptian international Ahmed Al-Muhammadi, but for how long remains to be seen. Having initially disagreed with Al-Muhammadi's club, ENPPI, over figures and how they would be paid, The Journal understands Sunderland have now settled on a pounds 1million, year-long loan fee, rising to pounds 2. …

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