ERIC BLACK felt Sunderland’s first victory of the season helped vindicate the approach the club has taken in preceding five matches.
But he also admitted that bold decision-making by manager Steve Bruce – who dropped skipper Lee Cattermole and Jack Colback from his midfield to accommodate David Vaughan and Craig Gardner – was pivotal in the Black Cats’ 4-0 success against Stoke.
He said: “As a management team, we have to look at the quality of performances and I think we’ve played quite well in some games this season, so it hasn’t been all doom and gloom from our point of view – we just haven’t got the results we’ve wanted.
“There was never any pressure from us internally.
“The players have trained the same way as they have done from day one.
“That’s what you have to stay focused on – leaving all the external stuff to others – we’ve just felt that we’ve needed a little bit of a break, something going our way and we got that on the day.
“It’s not always easy to bring in 10 new players and just fit them into an existing structure, it takes a bit of time.
“We’re not offering excuses because there’s plenty of other teams who are in the same boat as us. But I think the Stoke game showed the quality of players the manager has brought in because that was there for everyone to see.
“He didn’t leave the captain out lightly. Jack Colback was also a big call because he’s performed exceptionally well, but that’s why he’s the manager. He’s paid to make these calls and I think, against Stoke, he got them right.”
Black argued that, on another day, the Newcastle derby last month could have been another Stoke.
“I thought our first half against Newcastle – no-one would have argued if we’d been two or three up at half-time – was good (like against Stoke). It didn’t work out that way unfortunately,” he said.
“We are in a results business and victories are all that matter – especially against your closest rivals – but we have to try to step back a bit.
“I know it hurts to get beaten in a derby and it hurts the manager more than anyone, I can assure you.
“But it wasn’t a bad performance and what you have to do is keep doing what you believe is right and hope it works out for you.”
Black was pleased for Bruce, who has been through the mill since the derby.
“Under the circumstances, the manager has had to put up over the last few weeks, especially with him being from this area. I think he’ll be a happy man over the next few days.” he said.
“It hurts him.
“People think he’s this big robust character, but it hurts him.
“He’s a winner and always has been and it hurts him when it doesn’t go the way he wants it.
“Sometimes the criticism is unfair because he works hard and he puts decent teams together, but, such is life – that’s the pressure on a manager in the Premier League.”