STEVE Bruce is looking to this Sunday’s clash with Stoke to begin drawing a line under the club’s derby defeat – just like their win in this fixture did last season.
Sunderland have made an indifferent start to the season, not helped by the defection last weekend of star striker Asamoah Gyan to the United Arab Emirates. But it is the morale-sapping home defeat to Newcastle United which Bruce knows has the fans still reeling.
The manager is desperate for everyone to put that behind them and says that a good result against Stoke City this weekend would do wonders for improving the mood on Wearside – just as victory did over the Potters last season, immediately after the 5-1 drubbing on Tyneside.
“The home game against Stoke last season turned out to be a turning point for us and let’s hope that this one proves to be a turning point as well, after the start we have had,” he said
“Last season, after losing the derby at St James’ Park, we got a great win against Stoke at home and that spurred us on to get a point at Spurs and further down the line a win at Chelsea.
“I know it’s a month since we lost against Newcastle but that result has coloured the way that people look at our start – if we had lost at Liverpool and drawn against Newcastle, instead of the other way around, we’d have the same points but things wouldn’t look nearly so bad.”
Stoke’s physical and direct style of football might have won them few friends among football’s purists – it is route one and, at set-pieces, they crowd the opposition penalty box with big, physical players – but it has proved effective.
They are now an established top flight side and last season they reached the FA Cup final where, despite losing to Manchester City, they secured a place in the Europa League, which meant they travelled to Dynamo Kiev last night for what turned out to be a 1-1 draw.
Stoke also brought in reinforcements during the transfer window, beating Sunderland to the signature of Peter Crouch and also adding the likes of Cameron Jerome, Wilson Palacios and Jonathan Woodgate.
So the Sunderland manager is fully aware that tomorrow’s match will be a heck of a challenge for him and his players.
Bruce said: “Stoke have had a smashing three or four years in the Premier League.
“They have followed a similar kind of path to this club, in so far as they have worked to make sure they are established in the top flight rather than becoming a yo-yo club.
“They have bought well and their manager looks like he is enjoying managing in the Premier League.
“We know how difficult they are to play against, and we realise what Stoke’s strengths are.
“But we don’t want to build them up too much - we need to concentrate on how we are going to win the game.
“We are at home and it’s important that our crowd get behind us and help us kick-start our season.”