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.”