STEVE BRUCE sends his young guns out with orders to be quick on the draw at High Noon tomorrow.
The Black Cats’ boss intends to be positive in the big Wear-Tyne derby at the Stadium of Light.
And he will adopt the attitude that attack is the best form of defence, for a squad which is the most youthful in the Premier League and revels in playing a high-tempo game.
“I’ve got my team sorted out in my head,” said Bruce. “I’ve got my game plan ready and a big part of it will be for the players to go out there, express themselves and go hunting for goals.
“We’re at home, in front of our own fans and we need to take the game to them from the start.
“I look at my squad and I’ve got young players who are full of energy – the youngest squad in the division – and we need to harness that strength and energy in a way we didn’t last time we faced Newcastle.
“I’m also in a situation where injuries leave us with only one way to play – given the players we can call on – and that’s to be attack-minded.
“We’ve got two exceptional defensive midfielders – Lee Cattermole and David Meyler – both would probably have played tomorrow had they been fully fit.
“But that’s not the case with Meyler and unlikely to be the case with Cattermole and when I look around my squad and my options, I find that almost every player available to us is someone who loves to go forward.
“So we’ll look to play to the strengths of the players we’ve got and we’ll go for it – I don’t think our fans would want, or even expect, anything else.”
Sunderland will have Nedum Onuoha back tomorrow but the game looks to have come too soon for either Danny Welbeck or Cattermole.
Bruce said: “I wanted to have a settled side in my mind long before kick-off because I know that unless you’re 100 per cent fully fit going into a derby game, it can cost you as a player and it can cost the team too.
“I’m not risking that. We’d love to have Danny and Lee involved but it’s more important that the players we put out on the pitch this Sunday aren’t distracted by injuries or nursing aches and strains.
“I want everyone who goes out there to be 100 per cent focused and ready to go.”
Full derby previews in today’s Sunderland Echo and Football Echo.