Belfast Telegraph

Poyet understands Bruce torment

Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet knows exactly what Hull counterpart Steve Bruce is going through as the Tigers boss attempts to drag his club out of an alarming slump.

The two men will go head to head at the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day, but will do so having experienced markedly different emotions in recent weeks with Poyet still basking in the glory of Sunday's derby victory at Newcastle and Bruce by contrast presiding over a team which last collected three Barclays Premier League points on October 4, 11 games ago.

While the Black Cats head into the holiday period sitting in 14th place in the table, Hull have slipped into the drop zone and are in desperate need of a win to ease their fears of being sucked into a fight for top-flight survival.

Twelve months ago, Sunderland found themselves in a very similar position and only late heroics got them out of trouble, so Poyet has a deal of empathy for his opposite number.

He said: "Yes, but first, I think Brucey has got the experience and he knows what is needed, so I am not going to tell him anything.

"It's just the feelings in those moments that you cannot show, you cannot explain it. It's you, how you cope with the situation and how you keep going with the players you have got and organise them and cope with the injuries.

"But they need a win. Everybody says the same, they need a win, and the next game is the most important one, so I am sure he is concentrating on us."

Bruce could be forgiven for targeting the trip to the Stadium of Light as the launchpad for a recovery having got the better of Sunderland three times last season.

The Black Cats capitulated in spectacular style in the league at the KC Stadium in November last year when Carlos Cuellar's own goal proved decisive on a day when both Andrea Dossena and Lee Cattermole were sent off, and Wes Brown saw red three months later as Hull completed a league double on Wearside with a 2-0 victory.

Bruce's men were also triumphant in the FA Cup quarter-final clash between the sides with Curtis Davies, David Meyler and Matty Fryatt firing them to a 3-0 victory on Humberside on their way to the final, where they were eventually beaten 3-2 by Arsenal after taking an early 2-0 lead.

That disappointment was tempered by a first qualification for Europe, but that, Poyet believes, may have contributed to Hull's difficulties this season.

He said: "They needed to prepare a squad to play in the Barclays Premier League, the Europa League and the two cups. Rightly or wrongly, they brought in plenty of players because they needed a proper, big squad.

"Then unfortunately the Europa League didn't go very well and then you find yourselves with the two cups and the league. Then when you are not in the cup, the league is the most important.

"Then you get hit by injuries - it's incredible. What in the beginning was an absolutely fantastic season for Hull City now is quite difficult."

Poyet will be without injured full-back Anthony Reveillere, who damaged a calf muscle during the warm-up at Newcastle, and suspended striker Connor Wickham after his fifth booking of the campaign.

Alex Bruce believes it is time for relegation-threatened Hull to show their "mongrel" side.

The Tigers are winless in their last 10 outings, lie second bottom of the Barclays Premier League table and are missing a host of senior players.

First-choice midfield trio Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore and Mohamed Diame are all absent through either suspension or injury, with Michael Dawson nursing a torn hamstring and captain Curtis Davies doubtful with a calf problem.

But Bruce is not taking the situation lying down and wants those who are left standing to throw themselves into the task.

"We're down to the bare bones but we have strength in depth in this squad and it's important for those who come in to do well and grab the shirt," he said.

"The mongrels, and I'd probably be classed as one of them, have got to stand up and be counted.

"It's a tough patch for us but a lot of Premier League teams, and bigger clubs than us, have been through it.

"It's time to roll your sleeves up, dig deep and come out fighting."

Despite personnel problems, exacerbated by Hatem Ben Arfa's persona-non-gratis status and Paul McShane's current exile, a trip to the Stadium of Light followed by a home clash with Leicester 48 hours later represent a real chance to gather points.

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