STEVE BRUCE insists his current squad is the “best” at his disposal since he became Sunderland manager.
The 50-year-old took control at the Stadium of Light in June 2009, and has led the Black Cats to 13th and 10th-place finishes in the Premier League.
Both campaigns, however, have seen the team’s form deteriorate in their later stages.
As a result, Bruce launched a comprehensive overhaul of his playing staff during the summer, making 10 new signings and allowing a host of players to depart.
And while they have started the season slowly, having only begun to show first signs of gelling in Sunday’s 4-0 home win over Stoke City, Bruce is adamant he now has a group superior to any in his time on Wearside.
“This is easily the best squad I’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “They’re a delightful bunch to work with. We’ve got good competition for places.
“We have a group which hopefully we can keep hold of and have some stability over the next two to three years, which will be vital.”
Such is the depth of that competition for places that Bruce was able to remove the out-of-form Lee Cattermole – along with Jack Colback – from
Sunday’s starting line-up. And while full of praise for Cattermole’s replacement, David Vaughan, the Sunderland boss has defended his captain, and urged his critics to remain patient with the combative midfielder.
“I’m paid to make big decisions and Lee Cattermole and Jack Colback can feel hard done by because they have both contributed in their own way,” Bruce said.