Black Cats boss defends Big Sam

The two managers will go head-to-head at Ewood Park on Monday
evening with Allardyce’s approach having been questioned by Fulham
midfielder Danny Murphy, who singled out his team, Wolves and Stoke
for criticism over the physical nature of their play. On Saturday,
Murphy insisted his comments had been “blown out of all
proportion”. Bruce and Allardyce are close friends and while the
Black Cats boss knows exactly what to expect when he sends his team
into battle with Rovers, he insists his Blackburn counterpart’s
reputation is unwarranted. He said: “The reason, I have said
repeatedly, the Premier League is like it is is the competitiveness
of it. “If we take it away, we will end up like leagues in France
and Spain and Italy where, if I take you to a game, it is just all
technique and there is no real physical element. “It is half the
pace our games are at and if we take away that element, we will
take away what we have got in this country, which is a fantastic
competitive division. “I think I speak for Sam and every other
manager, none of us want to go and send a team out that will
physically hurt anybody else, that is absolute nonsense. “I don’t
know where Danny’s comments have come from or why he has chosen to
do that. His manager Mark Hughes, for instance, had a Blackburn
team that was very competitive. “This Premier League is the way it
is and the biggest spectacle that is beamed around the world
because of the competitive nature of it, and if we take that away,
we will just end up like everybody else.” Allardyce, of course,
forged his uncompromising reputation at Bolton and following a
brief and ultimately disastrous spell in charge at Newcastle, where
he was removed from his post by owner Mike Ashley after just eight
months, has re-built it at Blackburn. Sunderland head across the
Pennines having drawn with Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United
in their last three Barclays Premier League games, but knowing the
degree of difficulty is unlikely to drop. Bruce said: “We know what
to expect. You all know I am a big friend of Sam and enjoy his
company, and whenever you are up against his teams, you know
physically if you don’t stand up and be counted against them, you
will be caught short. “He has done fantastically well to finish
10th against with Blackburn on really limited resources and selling
all the players he has. “You look at his record at Bolton and he
was very, very successful. “Yes, he is much-maligned for the way he
plays, but it is difficult, you know it is difficult to play
against them, and that’s another challenge. “We have stood up to
the challenge of playing against the really good football teams,
now it’s another challenge and that’s what the Premier League is.
“I hope we can handle it and cope with it, play our stuff and
hopefully come out on top.” Part of handling Blackburn will involve
meeting force with force, and Bruce insists the travelling fans
will expect nothing less. He said: “If one of my players jumps out
of a tackle here, he will have 40,000 people – rightly – on his
back. “They want to see their team tackle and compete for the ball.
That doesn’t mean to say they want these over-the-top tackles which
are creeping in from these cowardly players we have got. “But the
ones who are genuinely trying to tackle and make a challenge for
the ball, it is part and parcel of the game and part of the
spectacle.”