Steve Bruce refuses to blame Darren Bent sale for Sunderland form

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce does not believe Darren Bent's shock January departure is the reason for the club's alarming slump in form.

The Black Cats have won just one of the 10 Barclays Premier League games they have contested since the England striker headed for Aston Villa in a £24million transfer, and taken a solitary point from the last nine to slip to within five points of the relegation zone.

They have scored only nine goals in the process and just two of them have come from big-money summer signing Asamoah Gyan.

However, while many commentators have pointed to Bent's untimely departure and Sunderland's decision not to replace him, even with a stop-gap signing, as the pivotal moment, Bruce insists their problems have been at the back rather than up front.

He said: "For me, when we were successful, the reason was our back lot. Our back lot was rock solid, we didn't give much away.

"Certainly when [Michael] Turner and [Titus] Bramble were in tandem, we kept four or five clean sheets at that particular time, and that hasn't happened since.

"For me, rather than up the front end, the one area where you need to be rock solid and create partnerships is at the back.

"You need that spine of your team and unfortunately, it hasn't really happened.

"But it is what it is. I can stand here and try to make excuses, but it is what it is.

"It isn't going to get any better - it certainly doesn't look as if it is going to get any better for this season - so we have to live with it, get over the over the line and address everything and analyse everything and understand the reasons why better than we are doing at the moment."

Bruce's argument has some merit - his side have conceded 24 goals in its last 10 games with a creditable 0-0 draw at Arsenal on March 5 their only clean sheet.

Both Bramble and Turner have missed large parts of the season with knee injuries - indeed, the former may not play again before the end of the campaign with a cartilage problem - while loan signing John Mensah's fragility has become a constant and costly theme.

However, they have also been hit hard in attack with Fraizer Campbell having managed only four appearances this season and facing the possibility of sitting out much of the next, while Danny Welbeck, having just returned from a knee injury, damaged a hamstring in Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Birmingham.

Bruce has found himself in the difficult position of trying not to make his lengthy casualty list an excuse, but at the same time having to piece together a team from walking wounded and youngsters who in an ideal world, would be introduced more gradually.

He said: "I can only try to give reasons for why we are where we are at the moment.

"For instance, one statistic is Turner and Bramble have played together eight times and we have lost once.

"Now we know even Chelsea with [Frank] Lampard missing are not quite the same; Manchester United when they are without [Nemanja] Vidic and [Rio] Ferdinand, not quite the same.

"Unfortunately, we have not been able to cope with the loss of so many for so long. It's caught up with us.

"We haven't been able to cope with having six or seven missing week in and week out."

News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links