STEVE Bruce says everyone at the club has to ask whether they’re producing their best as Sunderland look to stop an alarming slump – and that includes himself!
The Black Cats’ boss says he’s not convinced he did not blunder at the weekend over his substitutions and formation for the game against Liverpool which ended in convincing defeat for the Wearsiders.
But he says that while he is ready to admit he may have made a mistake, he needs everyone in the camp to be just as honest as he is.
“We’re in a bad run, there’s no getting away from it,” he told the Echo. “And in my experience the best way for everyone to get out of it is always for everyone to pull together.
“You’ve got to be open and honest with each other and make sure you leave your egos at the door.
“I’ve questioned myself over the last few days because I’m not convinced I made the right substitution in the Liverpool game.
“They came upon us quickly and unexpectedly with Kieran Richardson and Sulley Muntari being forced to come off midway through the first-half and I brought on Steed Malbranque and Lee Cattermole hoping to make as much of a like-for-like change as I could.
“I also switched the formation and changed it so that Danny Welbeck was pushed more up front – we switched much more from a 4-5-1 formation to a 4-4-2.
“Looking back, I have to question whether those were the right decisions.
“Certainly I think it might have been a better decision to bring Bolo Zenden on and change the flow of the game – the one concern I had there was Bolo had just come back from injury and could he have played a full 70 minutes just after coming back?
“As far as the formation was concerned, we switched from the system we’d practised all week and we moved Danny Welbeck further forward.
“It seemed like the right decision at the time to accommodate the changes but again, looking back, you wonder whether we maybe should have stuck with a more crowded midfield because that was something which had worked well for us at Arsenal in our last game.”
Bruce’s self-doubts might appear to some as indecisiveness but the manager insists that self-examination by everyone at the club is important if things are to improve.
“Nobody’s perfect,” he shrugged. “Players can go out and have poor games sometimes or make the wrong decisions but none of them do it on purpose.
“Maybe my decisions would have made no difference to the outcome of the game, maybe if I’d brought Bolo on he’d have got injured and I’d be regretting that decision – you can never know and those are the thoughts that can drive you mad if you dwell on them too much.
“But in the professional game you’ve got to look at every aspect before you move on and that’s what I’m trying to do. The players need to do that themselves, to think about their game, about what they could do better – it’s a very important took for improving as a footballer.” Though Bruce was hard on himself, he is the first to accept that there is an obvious mitigating factor in the run of results which has seen just one point taken from the last 18.
“We’ve played a lot of the top teams in our last six games,” he said. “A run including Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool would stretch anybody.
“It was always going to be hard in this batch of games but I’m still looking for us to find our best performances as soon as possible and produce a strong end to the season.”