CRAIG Gardner believes fans will start to see the real Sunderland over the next few weeks, as Steve Bruce’s overhauled squad finally begins to find its feet.
It has been a lacklustre start to the season so far for the Black Cats, who go into Saturday’s game against Chelsea still searching for their first win of the campaign.
Premier League games against Liverpool, Newcastle United and Swansea City and a Carling Cup tie against Brighton & Hove Albion all failed to bring supporters a victory to celebrate.
But Gardner reckons that now the transfer window is closed and squads settle, the true value of Sunderland’s work over the summer will start to emerge.
He told the Echo: “The start of the season is always a bit of a strange time for clubs because it takes time to get into your stride and teams tend to go out, do their best and see what happens.
“Sometimes it works for you and sometimes it doesn’t and that’s why you see some pretty odd results early on.
“It usually takes three of four weeks for sides to find their pattern and with so many changes to Sunderland’s squad, that’s our challenge.
“But the one thing I’m very confident of it is the quality of players we have in our squad.
“I come in I train with them and I see their ability and that’s what gives me confidence that we’ll go on to have a successful season.”
Gardner points to the presence of former Manchester United stalwarts John O’Shea and Wes Brown as proof of the upward progress in the quality of the Sunderland squad.
But he says it’s not just the Old Trafford duo that will make the difference.
“I think when you look around, the manager has brought in a lot of good players to improve on what was already a good team last season. John O’Shea and Wes Brown will help but the other new faces want to make big contributions too.”
Bruce could tinker with his side again this weekend, with loan signing Nicklas Bendtner available to make his Sunderland debut. But Gardner stresses that there’s plenty of talent throughout the squad.
“You can’t overlook the fact the club finished 10th in the league last season,” he added. “That is something that doesn’t just happen by accident – so there’s a lot of good players here already.
“It takes time for new squads to settle in and gel and it doesn’t necessarily happen instantly but there’s a lot of good players at the club and I’m sure the supporters will start to see them prove their worth as the season gets into full swing.”
The ambitious Gardner wants to be a big part of that after his £5m signing from Birmingham City this summer. Steve Bruce brought the 25-year-old in to score goals from midfield – he notched 10 for the Blues last season – and the player himself can’t wait to shine.
“I haven’t come here to sit on the bench,” he said. “I want to play games, I want to do well for Sunderland and I want to score goals.
“I know that one of the reasons the club has bought me is because I had a decent goalscoring record in the Premier League last season but that doesn’t bother me, I don’t feel under any extra pressure.
“I’ve always scored goals, be it in training or in matches, and I’m confident that I’ll get my fair share here.”