PHIL Bardsley believes the loss of Sunderland’s key figures has been to blame for the club’s sluggish start to the season – not Black Cats boss Steve Bruce.
Sunderland have taken a modest 10 points from the opening 11 games to leave them down in 15th place in the table as the Premier League takes a two-week breather.
After a summer of high expectations on Wearside, Bruce has received his share of flak at recording just two victories, with the Black Cats facing four upcoming high-pressure outings against teams also in the bottom half.
But full-back Bardsley insists Bruce deserves some leeway after months of upheaval to his playing squad.
Sunderland have lost the services of England internationals Darren Bent, Danny Welbeck and Jordan Henderson during 2011, along with record signing Asamoah Gyan and club captain Bolo Zenden – forcing Bruce to land 11 fresh faces during the summer.
Bardsley told SportMail: “With the players we have brought in and the players we lost at the end of last season, it has been difficult for the manager to build a team.
Read more of Phil Bardsley’s comments in today’s Sportmail.