STEVE Bruce has warned his Sunderland players that Wigan will not be fazed at being cast adrift at the foot of the Premier League.
Top flight basement boys Wigan head to the Stadium of Light tomorrow five points adrift of safety and without a win since August.
But Bruce insists Sunderland must give his former employers full respect if the Wearsiders are to get the three points which would hoist the Black Cats back into mid-table.
“Just because Wigan are bottom doesn’t mean we can take them lightly,” Bruce told the Echo. “They’ve been in the Premier League for six years now and they’ve developed the experience to handle the pressure situations like these.
“They’ve been punching above their weight for years and it’s nothing new to them to find themselves near or at the bottom.
“When I took over there as manager – at around about the same time of the season – people were saying they were all but relegated but we stayed up quite comfortably and that just demonstrates there’s a long way to go in the season and still a lot of change to be expected in league positions.
“Wigan have a really tough sequence of fixtures coming up after this weekend – so that will give them the perfect incentive to want to do particularly well at our place tomorrow.
“But this is a game that we’re looking to win, that our fans are looking for us to win and we need to produce the sort of play we’re capable of now to start building up our points base.
“We’re a bit like Fulham below us in that I think we are better than our league position indicates, but we need to go out there in these next few games and get over the line and get the three points, starting with Wigan tomorrow.
“I’m looking forward to the game because it’s a good opportunity for us and I want the players to go out there and be positive.”
Bruce insists, though, that that licence to attack does not mean Sunderland throwing caution to the wind.
He said: “I was a bit concerned about our last quarter of an hour against Fulham when we lost our shape and discipline throwing absolutely everything at them.
“We were caught out at the back a couple of times and it could have cost us the point we took from the game.
“The Wigan game is one we want to and need to win but it’s also important that we don’t panic and that we keep our patience.
“It’s completely understandable when the crowd are roaring them on that the players want to get forward constantly and attack but we also need to watch our shape and our discipline. “We have to get the balance right between being positive and patient this weekend because Wigan won’t make it easy for us and will be out to take something from the game.
“But as long as we keep our heads, play our best football and have a positive attitude, we’ll be fine and will hopefully get the win that lifts everyone.”