STEVE Bruce accepted responsibility for Sunderland’s disappointing defeat to newly-promoted Norwich City last night.
“I pick the team, so I have to shoulder the blame,” he said afterwards.
But he could hardly blame himself for the way so many of his players performed under the standards expected of them.
Norwich’s enthusiasm and application seemed to stop Sunderland in their tracks and too many of the visiting players seemed to wilt under the pressure they were put under.
Instead of stamping their Premier League authority on the game, Sunderland went into siege mode, hurrying and misplacing passes as the waves of yellow shirts beat down on them.
And in the end, no one could argue that they hadn’t been well-beaten on the night – not even their manager.
“If we are going to be honest we didn’t play well enough,” admitted Bruce.
“Too many players were below par and the number of times we turned over possession and gave it away, we made it a difficult night for ourselves. We had a bit of a rally when we got a goal in the dying minute but it was too late by then.
“I can’t criticise my players’ work-rate and effort to get something out of the game but the mistakes we made cost us, simple mistakes.
“Norwich are on the crest of the wave at the moment and played very well. We expected them to.
“They are newly-promoted, they are at home but we needed to be bigger than that.
“Big players, international players haven’t performed on the night.”
Bruce was as subdued as he has been all season – as reserved as he was after the defeat to Newcastle – as frustration bubbled under.
He had fielded the same team which had swept away Stoke on its last outing but saw it perform at nowhere near the level needed on the night.
And the two goals conceded to the Canaries just about summed up Sunderland’s below par performance on the night.
“We’re disappointed with them because they’re bad goals to concede,” he said.
“We haven’t picked up in the box for the one-two for the first one, and then we haven’t gone with the runners for the second.
“Simple things, basic things really in terms of defence and we haven’t done them. We need to be better than that.”