STEVE Bruce hopes the passion of North East football fans ignites a spark in Nicklas Bendtner and inspires the best season of the young Dane’s career so far.
The Sunderland manager has been delighted with the 23-year-old’s contribution to the cause so far and believes that if Black Cats’ supporters can get underneath Bendtner’s skin, the forward could come of age as a Premier League star.
Bruce told the Echo: “Nicklas is a massive talent and he does have it in him, not just to be a prolific scorer, but also a great all-round forward.
“We see it from time-to-time in training and in games, but to really deliver on his potential he has to do it consistently.
“Although this might seem like a strange thing to say, I think our supporters can help him do that.
“I think the one thing Nick has to find sometimes is that hunger and desire in games, otherwise it’s almost too easy for him.
“He needs to find ways to drive himself on and our fans can certainly do that to players.
“I keep saying that you have to have a certain type of character to do well in front of North East football fans because there’s a pressure here – but Nick is exactly the sort of person who thrives in that environment.
“He loves being challenged, loves being noticed and appreciated.
“Our fans have taken to him and he knows that and in the months ahead I’m hoping he will feed off their passion – that he’ll be motivated by the desire to go out there and impress them over and again.
“He hasn’t really had that at Arsenal.
“He hasn’t been given a regular start and he hasn’t always been given his preferred role up front.
“We’re giving him both here at Sunderland and with our fans behind him, we might just see him blossom.
“He’s got a goal ratio of a goal every other game at Arsenal and we’re hoping for something similar from him here.
“He’s certainly got the ability to be somewhere in that area.”
Bruce, left, is quick, though, to ask that the young Dane be given time to establish himself at the Stadium of Light.
“He’s scored two goals in seven games and his all-round play has been exceptional,” mused the Sunderland manager.
“But he’s still only a couple of months into his Sunderland career and we should remember that.
“We shouldn’t really start to judge him until he’s been here for at least six months and has settled into the area and his role.
“The good thing is that he seems to be loving being part of the club and being up in this part of the world.
“That’s good for us because he’s such an important player in the squad at the moment.
“And he does have that ability to drive us on as a side when he’s in top form.”