STEVE Bruce has urged Sunderland’s new boys to curb their over-eagerness to impress.
The 11 summer signings at the Stadium of Light have understandably been eager to make their mark for the Black Cats, particularly given Sunderland’s indifferent start to the campaign.
But the likes of John O’Shea, uncharacteristically sloppy with his possession in Monday’s defeat at Norwich, and Connor Wickham, who spurned a glorious opportunity against the Canaries, are still to hit top gear.
Boss Bruce believes some of his acquisitions have been weighed down by a desperation to shine and cites the example of Craig Gardner as one who felt the responsibility to live up to his reputation as a goalscoring midfielder.
The 24-year-old hit double figures for Birmingham last season, but struggled for the Wearsiders until he broke his duck in Sunderland’s last outing on Wearside against Stoke City.
Bruce told the Echo: “Anyone who moves to a new club is obviously keen to impress.
“But I’ve just felt that with the likes of Craig, he’s been trying too hard and this tag of 10 goals from midfield has been weighing on his mind.
“All he wanted to do was score a goal, but then he forgot that he was a midfield player.
“The most important thing was to have a quiet word in his ear and tell him to calm down a bit and go and enjoy it and let me do the worrying.
“Getting a goal should settle him down though.”
Meanwhile, Bruce is hopeful that Seb Larsson will be back to full fitness for Saturday’s visit of West Brom.
The Swedish midfielder sustained a toe injury against Stoke and struggled to participate in training in the run-up to the trip to Carrow Road.
But after completing more than an hour against the Canaries, Larsson should be in contention to keep his place at the weekend, with Bruce under no illusions about the 26-year-old’s importance from deadball situations.
“The good thing is that Larsson’s set piece delivery has been excellent for us,” added Bruce.
“In the two years I’ve been here, we’ve not been a threat from set pieces, basically because we haven’t had anybody capable of delivering it.”