Bruce hoping summer break will help relight Sunderland’s fire

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce is hoping Take That will help put a smile back on his face at the end of the most frustrating season of his career to date.

The group are playing four dates at the Stadium of Light later this month, and their arrival on Wearside will mean Bruce and his injury-ravaged team will have been put out of their misery.

In the meantime, the Black Cats will have to negotiate the final three games of a campaign which started so promisingly with virtually all of their strongest XI in the treatment room and not a single striker available to a manager who believed he had put together the club’s best ever quartet of frontmen just a few months ago.

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Asked if he will be glad to see the back of a season which takes his depleted squad to Bolton today, Bruce replied: “Will I be glad to see the back of it? No, you are wishing your life away then, aren’t you. I can’t wait for Take That, though.”

A traumatic few months has taken a series of fresh twists in the last 48 hours or so with Kieran Richardson being ruled out for the rest of the season with a stress fracture of his left fibula, and Michael Turner and Lee Cattermole unlikely to figure again before August with knee and back problems respectively.

Indeed, Bruce could be without 10 of the men he feels make up his strongest side at the Reebok Stadium, and that is a source of intense frustration.

The manager insists he has endured more difficult campaigns during his career to date, but it is the sense of what might have been this time around which is haunting his thoughts after he had guided the club into the Barclays Premier League’s top six around the turn of the year.

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He said: “For six months, it was great. It’s the most frustrating one because I know how close we were. We were very close. That’s the frustration, when your season just peters away how it is.

“No matter how I try to flannel it up, the simple facts are that with the problems we have got, we can’t cope with it – and I don’t think there are many who can.

“I keep telling you about Wolves – since they have lost (Kevin) Doyle, they haven’t won a game, and it is because of one player.

“We have got 10 who I could name – Gordon, Bramble, Campbell, Richardson, Welbeck, Gyan, Meyler, Henderson, Cattermole, Turner would all play. They are my first team. We are finding it very difficult – but as I keep saying, any team would, unless you are Manchester United and can make nine changes and win a semi-final of the European Cup.”