Ferdinand 'must force way back in'

Sunderland manager Bruce says defensive duo's form keeps £8m man out
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The Independent Football

The manager of Sunderland, Steve Bruce, has told Anton Ferdinand to remain patient as he waits for another chance to impress.

Ferdinand has found himself surplus to requirements in recent weeks with Paulo da Silva and John Mensah lining up in central defence for the 1-0 win over Arsenal and Michael Turner returning from suspension to partner Da Silva at Wigan on Saturday.

That has left the £8m-rated player sitting on the bench, although his manager insists he would be prepared to step into the firing line at any time.

Bruce said: "He has every right not to be happy because he is not in the team due to the form of Mensah and Da Silva, who have played exceptionally well, and Michael Turner is available too. But that competition for places has got to be there when you play at a big club like this. I wouldn't expect him to be happy, it's normal.

"He is not in the team, so he is not going to be. But he has just got to get on with it and wait for his chance to come again – which it will – and then make it very, very difficult for me to leave him out."

Ferdinand was linked with a move to Tottenham, with full-back Alan Hutton heading in the opposite direction, on the final day of the summer transfer window, and there has been speculation that Sunderland could listen to offers for him next month.

With Turner having established himself as Bruce's first-choice central defender and Da Silva and Mensah having also impressed – although the Paraguayan was too easily brushed aside by Wigan's Hugo Rodallega for the winning goal at the weekend – the former West Ham United man may have to wait for his chance.

Injuries and suspension have forced Bruce to make changes already this season and he knows that will happen again as the campaign continues.

Kieran Richardson, Kenwyne Jones, Lorik Cana and Turner have already served bans, and Richardson, who was sent off at Manchester United, and full-back Phil Bardsley are currently both on four bookings.

However, Bruce accepts that is an occupational hazard for combative players, and while he has asked Cana and Lee Cattermole in particular to take greater care, he does not want to blunt their competitive edge.

He said: "It's getting to that part of the season where your competitive players are going to be picking up yellow cards. They know they have got to tread a bit carefully, that's for sure, but you can't say too much to them because you don't want it to affect their performance."

The Birmingham City manager, Alex McLeish, will not even think about pushing for Europe until his side are secure in the top flight. The Scot insists the quest for Europe must remain secondary to the club establishing themselves as regulars in the Premier League.

Asked where he thinks City will be in two years, he told the club's official website: "I would hope we can still be in the Premier League and maybe competing in the middle part of the league. If we are talking about us getting into Europe, then I would not want to be looking too far ahead."

McLeish is aware of the way expectations can be raised by relative success, and he is not about to allow anyone, including himself, to get carried away. "Sometimes people within the club can lose perspective of the whole thing. Look at Roy Hodgson getting Blackburn into Europe and then losing his job because maybe they weren't in the same kind of position as they had been the previous season.

McLeish, backed by new owner Carson Yeung, hopes to significantly strengthen his squad next month, and is confident he will get the backing. "They are very ambitious people, and that's great because so am I," he said. "I think they want to secure Premier League safety as soon as possible, therefore they are keen to get new recruits in on the player front and that's why they are looking for lists from me."