Sunderland Club Focus – Bruce claims fans’ Newcastle bias cost him his job but results tell a different story

Just as the world was having a cracking good laugh at Samantha Brick’s fantastic narcissism in the Daily Mail, Steve Bruce lumbered into the picture trying to steal her glory. This week the ex-Sunderland boss gave an interview to the Newcastle Chronicle, telling them the reason he was sacked by the Black Cats was because their fans couldn’t handle the fact that he was a Geordie.

Of course, it had nothing to do with just two wins in 13 games at the start of this season (which left them two points off the bottom three), nor the fact that he oversaw just three home wins in 2011 before he was sacked, nor the fact that only twice in all his time as manager did Sunderland win successive league games, nor cup defeats to Brighton and Notts County, nor last season’s nine-game run which saw them pick up just one point, nor the 14 games without a win the season before. No, it’s because he’s a Geordie – just like that other ex-Sunderland boss, Bob Stokoe, of whom there is a statue outside the Stadium of Light.

Bruce went on to suggest he should get some of the plaudits for Sunderland’s success under Martin O’Neill as it was he who brought the likes of James McClean and Stephane Sessegnon to the club. Ah, McClean the youngster terrorising every right-back he faces now he’s an ever-present for Sunderland and who is knocking on the door of Ireland’s Euro 2012 squad but who didn’t play one single, solitary minute under Bruce. Yes, Bruce may have assembled the squad but it’s O’Neill who is getting the most out of it, as results attest.

Enough of the past – Sunderland’s future now looks much brighter. The uncharacteristically poor performance against Everton in the FA Cup quarter-final replay (they really were Bruce’s squad in that game) was a huge disappointment as fans and players alike will have felt they had a genuine chance of silverware. Now they find themselves in that awkward end-of-season limbo; no trophy to play for, only the slimmest hope of Europe, no real threat of relegation and so thoughts turn to next season.

O’Neill this week issued hands-off warnings over McClean and Sessegnon, who have caught the eyes of Manchester United and Arsenal respectively, while on-loan Nicklas Bendtner said he will wait until after Denmark’s tilt at this summer’s European Championship to decide his future.

It’s unlikely however, that O’Neill will allow his charges’ standards to slip. They bounced back from their cup disappointment by inflicting a huge dent in Manchester City’s title aspirations and, but for two goals in the last five minutes, they could have totally derailed it.

That’s something Harry Redknapp will be all too aware of as he brings his Spurs side to the Stadium of Light tomorrow lunchtime. Tottenham come into the game on the back of their first win in six games, a run of poor form which has seen them slip behind Arsenal and in serious danger of being caught by both Spurs and Newcastle, and they know they can afford no slip up against a Sunderland side sweating on the fitness of Lee Cattermole and Fraizer Campbell.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Sunderland v Tottenham

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