Bruce eyeing upward momentum

By the time the final whistle sounds in Monday night’s home clash
with Everton, the Black Cats will have faced every one of last
season’s top 10 inside their opening 14 games. To date, they have
lost to none of them with victories over Chelsea and Manchester
City and draws with Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham
representing the highlights. But with Wolves, West Ham, Fulham and
Bolton waiting in the wings after the Everton game, Sunderland have
an opportunity to develop a solid start into a very promising one
indeed. Bruce said: “We are a quarter of the way in and I have not
known anything like it. We have got four or five games now which,
for me, can define our season. “We have got something like five
games in two weeks over Christmas and we have got teams who, on
paper, you think we have got an outstanding chance against. “But
this Premier League takes some beating. Every team has good players
and Everton are no different. “We must make sure we try to follow
up the win at Chelsea. Can we take eight to 10 points from those
five games and keep us where we want to be? “That period will
define the season and what we can achieve.” The Black Cats will
head into their latest test having restored the balance of their
season with a return of seven points from a possible nine against
Stoke, Tottenham and, in remarkable fashion, Chelsea, since their
derby nightmare at Newcastle. They have lost only two league games
all season and while seven draws have demonstrated how difficult
they are to beat, two of their four wins this season have come in
the last three games. That is a statistic upon which Bruce is keen
to improve, although he knows that will be no easy task against
David Moyes’ Everton outfit. He said: “I’m a huge admirer of
Everton. They are a fantastic team and they will take some beating.
“We must make sure we keep our performance like we did last week.
“They are the epitome of their manager – hard-working, they don’t
give anything up – they are a very, very good side. “They have got
some smashing individual players in Steven Pienaar and Mikel Arteta
– the list is endless. “It will be a difficult game, no question.”
Bruce has been without leading scorer Darren Bent for the last
three games, but he has now recovered from his hamstring injury and
is back in contention, although record signing Asamoah Gyan’s four
goals in his absence and Danny Welbeck’s recent contributions mean
there will be no overwhelming need to rush him back.