Bruce ready for revenge mission
Bruce had never even been to a Tyne-Wear derby match before when he sent his side into battle at St James' Park on October 31, and he left the ground wishing he still had not after a demoralising 5-1 drubbing. Bruce locked himself away in the immediate aftermath as the promoted Magpies, the club he had supported as a boy, celebrated long and hard. But the three-month wait for a chance to put things right is almost over and having seen his side respond by climbing into sixth place in the Premier League since, revenge is the only item on the agenda this weekend. He said: "I do believe in management, the secret is not to beat yourself up too much and try not to get too carried away when things are going okay. "But certainly the 24, 48 hours after the event were the most difficult, probably, I have had to face. "The one thing you want from your staff and the team is to respond, and I don't think anybody could argue with the response we have had since, which is terrific. "Fair play to the staff, they have done their bit to try to make sure we got off the ropes and came out fighting, and the team has done that, which is fair play to them too." Bruce's links to both sides of the divide mean he knows exactly what is at stake for each club, although he admits he has been keeping his head down as he plots a victory which would restore local pride on Wearside. He said: "I haven't been out on the streets. I have kept myself to myself and waited. "But I know what the north-east derby means - I certainly know what it means now after savouring one which was arguably the worst, certainly in football, anyway, experience I have had. "The most important thing, I believe, is that we must play the game. The last time, we didn't. "We got caught up in the occasion, caught up with the media, caught up with the press, caught up with this, that and the other, and the one thing we forgot to do was turn up and play. "We must make sure we focus on playing the way we have done for the last 18 months at the Stadium of Light. "If we do that, then I know Newcastle will be in for a hell of a game." Chris Hughton, of course, was the man in the home dug-out on that fateful day at St James', although his place has since been taken by Alan Pardew, the man handed the task of completing a famous double. Bruce said with a smile: "I wish Alan the best of luck, and I am sure he is relishing his first derby. I hope he enjoys it like I enjoyed mine." Bruce is confident defender Nedum Onuoha will be available after a hamstring injury, and he is hoping skipper Lee Cattermole and striker Danny Welbeck could yet figure as the battle against back and hamstring problems respectively. However, the club's chances of having any new faces on board in time for the derby are receding with Sebastian Larsson's wage demands having brought a halt to their interest, while progress on loan moves for Sulley Muntari and Stephane Sessegnon has slowed. But Bruce dismissed suggestions the Black Cats had made an offer for long-term target Stewart Downing. He said: "We certainly haven't bid for anybody. I have seen reports this morning that we have lodged bids for certain players. "We haven't bid for anybody and I certainly don't think I will be making any bids for anybody in particular."