Bruce shuts up shop to all but 'crazy offers'

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The Independent Football

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce insists only a "ridiculous" offer would prompt him even to think about selling one of his key players this month.

Bruce, with the backing of the club's owner, Ellis Short, and chairman, Niall Quinn, has significantly strengthened his squad with the likes of record £13m-plus signing Asamoah Gyan and his £10m strike partner Darren Bent, as well as Michael Turner and Titus Bramble among others.

The manager has hinted that business will be limited in the winter transfer window in the belief that Aston Villa's Stewart Downing, Manchester City's Adam Johnson and Wigan's Charles N'Zogbia will be unavailable.

However, amid speculation that rival clubs could be ready to test his resolve to hang on to Gyan and the emerging England international Jordan Henderson, Bruce would be forced to make a decision only by an offer he simply could not refuse.

"It would take crazy offers for me to consider anything," he said yesterday. The ones who are out on loan are the ones where I would envisage there would be a bit of business to be done. But as for the big'uns we have got, we have worked extremely hard, the chairman and the owner, to get the club in this situation, so the last thing you would want to be doing is dismantling it. It would take ridiculous money, absolutely, for us even to think about doing anything."

Those who could move on are George McCartney, David Healy, Nyron Nosworthy, Andy Reid, Matt Kilgallon and Paulo da Silva, who has rejected a move to Mexican club Cruz Azul but has attracted interest from Spain. Jack Colback's loan spell at Ipswich comes to an end on 14 January, leaving Bruce with another decision.

At Aston Villa tonight, the manager must concentrate on trying to secure his side's first back-to-back Premier League wins this season. The Black Cats bounced back from a 2-0 home defeat to Blackpool with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Blackburn on Saturday, 24 hours before Villa signalled what they hope will be the start of a fightback with a creditable 3-3 draw at Chelsea.

Bruce said: "To be fair to [Villa's manager] Gérard Houllier, he has had a few injuries to his big players. When I saw them the other day they had that familiar look about them. They were big, strong, powerful, they had pace in good areas. If you finish sixth in the Premier League for the last three years you are a good team, and he had most of them playing the other day."

Bruce will be without his captain, Lee Cattermole, for a month with a back injury which requires rest, while he has doubts over Gyan and Ahmed Elmohamady for tonight's match.