PROUD Steve Bruce saluted his players for a superb 2-1 win at Blackpool on Saturday at the end of the most difficult of weeks.
The disappointing draw in the Wear-Tyne derby and the £24million departure of top scorer Darren Bent were consigned to the history books as reshuffled Sunderland’s recorded back-to-back away wins in the Premier League for only the second time since Niall Quinn took over as chairman.
“I couldn’t be happier with my players,” the manager said.
“Whenever they’ve faced adversity they’ve bounced back.
“We’ve had a disappointing derby and a disappointing transfer in the week but they’ve responded wonderfully and that’s what gives me hope that we can still have a successful season.
“The way they came back with so many good performances and results after the 5-1 derby defeat last October always springs to mind.
“And this week is another example, because, after everything that has happened, they could easily have felt sorry for themselves.
“But all credit to them, they have come out and produced one of our better performances away from home.
“And I can’t remember the last time Sunderland got back-to-back away wins in the Premier League.
“We were forced to play with a lone striker because he’s the only striker we had available to us on the day!
“But 4-5-1 suited us earlier in the season and it did again in this game.
“There’s always a clamour for 4-4-2, but you can still play positive, attacking football with only one striker and we did.”
It was an opening attacking game, but Bruce was pleased with the way his team controlled it and satisfied with their resilience in defence.
“The way that Blackpool play, you’re always going to need your defence to perform and thankfully they did,” he added.
“We also had Craig Gordon make some good saves and that kept things in our favour.
“But I’ve got to say I was pleased with the way we played overall – we dictated play for probably an hour and that’s some achievement away from home in the Premier League.”
The manager was asked again about the spat with Aston Villa over Darren Bent’s transfer, but it was a road he didn’t want to go down.
“The media has had a field day over what’s happened,” he winced. “And it’s time we drew a line under it.
“All I’ve said is that I expected a phone call from Gerard Houllier over their interest and I think we’re within our rights to say that.
“It has been blown out of proportion, but there comes a time when football’s got to take over again and thankfully it has.”