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.