STEVE Bruce is confident Sunderland will end the season successfully, despite the Black Cats’ suffering their fourth loss in a row at the weekend.
Defeat at Everton on Saturday dropped Sunderland down to eighth place in the Premier League.
And the poor quality of their performance offered no encouragement that they might be about to spark a revival in fortunes in the wake of previous consecutive defeats, to Spurs, Stoke and Chelsea.
But Bruce – whose next three games are against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City – refuses to concede that his side’s impressive rise is over after a disappointing start to 2011.
And he is asking Sunderland fans to keep the faith as the club looks to finish the season strongly.
He said: “We’ve got 10 games left, which is a quarter of the season, so there’s still a long way to go and we can still turn it around.
“Every team has a blip at some stage and it’s our turn now.
“We always knew this would be a difficult part of the season for us and that’s how it is proving.
“No excuses, but we’ve been hampered by key injuries and that has left us with a lack of competition. Hopefully that will ease and we’ll start to pick up.”
Long-term, Bruce reckons that Saturday’s opponents offer the perfect role model to Sunderland. And he says that despite Everton having a disappointing season so far, he would still expect them to finish strongly.
“I want to get Sunderland an established Premier League club, like Everton have become,” he said.
“You know Everton might have a slide, but they recover and we need to be like that.
“They’ll be a top 10 side by the end of the campaign and we’ve got to strive to be like them.”
Everton simply had too much for Sunderland on the day, but Bruce acknowledged that his players had hardly helped themselves.
“The first half was possibly the poorest we’ve played all season,” he said. “In the second half, we at least made a fist of it, but even then we were second best all afternoon.
“The two goals were poor goals and that’s something that has crept into us over the last few weeks.
“We’ve prided ourselves in being good defensively this season and I think that’s the root of our problems.
“We haven’t won here in 14 years and it never looked like we’d break that hoodoo because we were nowhere near as good as we should have been.”
Defeat at Goodison maintained Everton’s amazing record against Sunderland, 11 wins and three draws in the last 14 competitive meetings, going back almost a decade.