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Sunderland will repair damage during summer, promises Quinn

Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has promised an inquest into the club's morale-sapping slump, which is threatening to derail their season.

There had been hopes on Wearside that Steve Bruce's side would be challenging for Europe as the campaign entered its final throes, but instead, they find themselves trying to avoid being sucked into an unseemly scrap for Premier League survival.

A run of seven defeats in eight games has left Sunderland just five places and six points clear of the drop zone, with four of their remaining six fixtures coming against sides fighting for their top-flight lives.

Injuries have done them few favours – the defender John Mensah was yesterday ruled out for at least three weeks with a torn groin muscle – but Bruce knows a drastic upturn in fortunes is required.

The manager continues to enjoy the backing of Quinn and the club's owner, Ellis Short, despite some fans starting to voice their disapproval, but the chairman knows questions need to be asked and insists they will be.

"Once we get through this, we will look back to see what might have been done differently, how we might have improved things," Quinn said yesterday. "And in the summer we will evaluate things such as the catastrophic injury problems we have had to contend with and look at our transfer policy. Just like last season, we will sit down with Steve, take stock and work out together how we improve on this season and how we continue the building process to make us stronger and better in the following season."

Bruce and his players embarked upon the new campaign intent on securing a first top 10 Premier League finish since the days when Peter Reid's side threatened to make an impression a decade ago. They had just missed out at the end of the new manager's first season at the helm, when 13th place was regarded as something of a disappointment despite the fact it was a significant improvement on the two previous campaigns.

A return of 37 points from the first 24 games this season left them with a genuine chance of breaking into the top six, although a difficult run of fixtures and the improving form of teams such as Liverpool and Everton always suggested that might be difficult.

Bruce himself refused to talk about Europe, but even he could not have imagined the run of results, admittedly in the face of an injury crisis, which has brought their downward spiral. Defeats by Chelsea, Stoke, Tottenham, Everton, Liverpool and West Bromwich either side of a creditable 0-0 draw at Arsenal have prompted a spectacular collapse.

That run could hardly have come at a worse time for Quinn, who has spent much of the last few weeks meeting supporters at a series of talk-ins in an attempt to persuade stay-away fans to return to the Stadium of Light.

Quinn said: "I know that everyone inside the club, from top to bottom, is trying to do their very best to help things turn around again, and all that counts at the moment is that we concentrate on picking up points for our final few games."