STEVE Bruce says he wishes Sunderland and Newcastle were meeting with full strength teams in this weekend’s derby.
The Black Cats go into Sunday’s game with the festive programme having inflicted a succession of injuries on their squad, while Newcastle have problems of their own.
Both managers will have to juggle the resources at their disposal, but Bruce says that the situation is part and parcel of modern-day Premier League football.
“It’s not ideal,” he shrugged.
“In an ideal world we’d both be meeting each other with our strongest squads.
“I would love to play my best starting XI against Newcastle’s best starting XI – I’d be happy going into the game with a situation like that.
“But, unfortunately, it is not to be and we’ve got key players missing.
“It would have been great for us to have had a full strength central midfield of David Myler and Lee Cattermole had they been fully fit.
“It would have been great if Danny Welbeck had not suffered his hamstring problem and we could have looked at unleashing three fully fit strikers.
“And we’d love to have been able to call upon the likes of John Mensah and Michael Turner had they been available, but it isn’t to be.
“That’s something that you lament as a Premier League manager, but you also accept it.
“It’s the realities of Premier League football and, to a certain extent, the consequence of the number of games we play in such a short space of time but it’s the same for everybody and I know Newcastle have problems of their own.”
Bruce, though, is confident that the remaining players available to him for the game have what it takes to produce a good derby performance this weekend – as Sunderland look to avenge October’s 5-1 mauling on Tyneside.
He said: “I’ve already got my starting XI in mind and I’m happy that it’s the strongest side I can put out.
“When I look at the team I’m looking at, I know that it is strong enough to get the right result on the day.
“We’ve worked hard at building the strength of the squad up since I arrived and in league games it has dealt very well with the challenges thrown its way.
“We are sixth in the Premier League and that hasn’t happened by accident.
“There has been a resilience and a strength that this squad of players has shown when they’ve had to perform when the chips have been down.
“And I’ve got every confidence that we’ll see them produce a good display this weekend.
“They know the importance of the game and they’ll be ready for it.”