Happy return for Steve Bruce?

Steve Bruce
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Sunderland boss Bruce spent eight years at St Andrew’s – two as a player and six as a manager – and was responsible for taking Cameron Jerome, Seb Larsson, Liam Ridgewell and Stuart Parnaby to the club.

STEVE Bruce will not allow sentiment to cloud his return to Birmingham City with the stakes so high in the relegation dogfight.

Sunderland boss Bruce spent a total of eight years at St Andrew’s – two as a player and six as a manager – and was responsible for taking current players Cameron Jerome, Seb Larsson, Liam Ridgewell and Stuart Parnaby to the club.

But both Bruce’s current and former employers find themselves in the thick of the basement scrap with Birmingham three points adrift of Sunderland with a game in hand.

With Bruce facing another of his old clubs in Wigan seven days later, the Sunderland boss knows the importance of getting the victory that he believes would see the Black Cats safe.

Bruce told the Echo: “I had two years at Birmingham as a player and six as a manager so it’s had a big chunk of my career. It’s always decent to go back. But like any former club you go to, it’s only decent if you get a result.

“There’s about 11 of us in the fight and we need a win. If we can get that, I would think that will see us safe.

“We’ve got my two former clubs over the next two games and they’re arguably our most important games of the season.

“If we can win them both, then we’ve got a great chance of finishing in the top 10. If we don’t, then we’re in trouble. It’s as simple as that. We know the importance of the game and we’re up against it.

“But in those times as a player or manager you’ve got to work hard, stick together and see if you can turn it around. I know we are capable of getting a result at Birmingham.”

Bruce added that he may adopt a more defensive approach after conceding 21 goals in the last eight games.

The Sunderland boss realises he will need some steel in his side against a Birmingham outfit containing a host of seasoned professionals.

“I think we have to find that resilience which made us so difficult to play against,” said Bruce. “Maybe over the last few games, I’ve been forced to be a bit expansive.

“We haven’t really played 4-5-1, it’s been more 4-3-3 to try to give us a goal threat. We need to get that resilience back to give ourselves a chance.

“Away from home we’ve got five clean sheets so we need to find that again.”