Bruce pins hopes on academy
The Black Cats' disastrous conclusion to the Premier League campaign has prompted a root and branch review of their problems, and Bruce faces the task of explaining what has gone wrong to owner Ellis Short and coming up with solutions. Short has always demanded that every pound he invests in the club be fully justified, and that will once again be the case as his manager seeks to persuade the Texan businessman that his plans are the right ones and that he is the man to see them through. But in the meantime, Bruce will be at least able to comfort himself with the knowledge that midfielder Jack Colback's emergence as a genuine first-team player in the wake of Jordan Henderson's meteoric rise is further evidence that all the hard work below senior level is paying dividends. Bruce said: "I have to say, the academy does fantastically well here. "To have two young local lads playing in the team, that doesn't happen often in the Premier League these days, so they can take a big pat on the back. "Ged [McNamee, academy manager] and his staff work extremely hard and underneath them, we have got some very good young players too - Ryan Noble, Billy Knott, young Craig Lynch, Louis Laing, they have all got the potential to have good careers, so fair play to them, and I hope they continue." Colback, 21, has looked far from out of place after being drafted into the starting line-up for the last five games in the face of a crippling injury crisis. Having honed his skills during two hugely successful loan spells at npower Championship Ipswich, the combative youngster has proved he is capable of competing at the top level, and will head into pre-season determined to be involved from the off next time around. But such is the depth of the selection headache to have plagued Bruce in recent weeks, the academy graduate was surrounded by familiar faces in the home dressing room ahead of Saturday's 3-1 home defeat by Wolves. Nine of the men named in the 18 for the clash with Mick McCarthy's side were home-grown, and the substitutes' bench had an average age of just 19. Noble and Lynch, both 19, and 18-year-old Laing were used as second-half substitutes to provide further proof that the academy is doing its job and could potentially allow Short to rein in the spending in the future. Bruce said: "It costs us a lot of money to run it, but yes, of course, there's nothing better for the manager than to bring in a couple of the young kids. "The supporters identify with them, and hopefully it will stand the club in good stead." In the shorter term, however, Bruce is wary of the dangers of exposing young players in difficult circumstances, although he may have little option once again on Sunday as the season draws to a close at relegated West Ham. He said: "It's very difficult to blood young players in a struggling team. You have got to be careful and mindful of that." Unlike the Hammers, the curtain will fall on Sunderland's season with their place in the Premier League already assured, although in the nick of time with just two victories in their last 13 outings. The manager will now begin the process of reshaping his squad in earnest with 34-year-old midfielder Bolo Zenden having admitted he is likely to move on in the search for regular first-team football and loan signing John Mensah's hopes of a return not having been enhanced by his response to being substituted at the weekend.