Has Steve Bruce every right to go on the offensive in his response to the fierce criticism he has endured since losing at home to Newcastle and then away at Brighton in the Carling Cup? Well, yes and no: the calls for his head may be over the top, for now at any rate, but supporters have a right to voice their opinions on what went wrong in two games crucial to them and the club.
I am on record as stating here my belief that sacking him this early in the season, after what was then one bad result and is now two, would be absurd. As you can see from the comments that have appeared at Salut! Sunderland all week, that is hardly a universal view.
It hasn’t changed and it won’t change even if we lose tomorrow; three or four games in just doesn’t seem the right time to be contemplating such a dramatic move and change.
This is what Bruce has said today, and he doesn’t mince words:
“It shows you how difficult it is up here. The mass hysteria, I find some of it pathetic, to be honest. It engulfs you with two results, which I find disappointing.
But I have to accept it and realise that’s the way it is up here and I am not going to change it. That’s why loads of managers have probably sat here and struggled and found it difficult because of what engulfs you straight away.
But then again, you come to expect it. It’s two games (the defeats), and nobody is going to tell me in that Newcastle game that they were far better than us. They weren’t.
We made a mistake for the goal and were punished for it. I have seen the game three times over and nobody is going to tell me that we didn’t deserve any better. We deserved to get something out of the game.”
Take all that at face value and you still don’t have a proper answer to why he started the Brighton game without a recognised striker. And that is hardly the only mistake he has made. But it falls a long way short of being a sacking matter.
The debate is open, as ever, but I will otherwise stick to my guns and be inclined to re-assess the situation – and the progress, or lack of it – deep into the autumn. He has to be given a fair chance with the squad he has assembled. Another winless run like last season’s would have me joining the clamour for blood – except that Ellis Short would make the clamour unnecessary.