Bruce issues Sunderland rallying cry

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SUNDERLAND, Dec 25 – Sunderland manager Steve Bruce issued a Christmas Day message ahead of Everton's visit on Saturday, telling his players to change their mentality as he seeks to find a way out of a depressing slump.Everton visit the Stadium of Light with Bruce fully aware Arsenal are the only side the Black Cats have beaten in their last nine Premier League games.

Sunderland are only five points better off than Bolton, who lurk with games in hand inside the relegation zone.

Poor team performances at Wigan and Fulham have not helped, but mistakes contributed to a home draw with Portsmouth and defeats by Aston Villa and City.

Bruce said on Friday: "The biggest thing is the mentality here. The club has been in the bottom five for two years practically, so the mentality is that it’s acceptable.

"That’s the one thing we have to try to eradicate if we possibly can.

"But we are 10th going into Christmas with a really, really good opportunity, so I would rather look up than keep looking over my shoulder.

He suggests nothing over than full commitment will be acceptable, and recognises teams will pick off Sunderland if they detect any signs of weakness.

Bruce was given some encouragement by last week’s performance away to Manchester City, where Sunderland lost 4-3.

He explained: "The Premier League is unforgiving and if you just make individual errors, you come two, three, four, five per cent off your maximum, you get punished by any team, and we have learnt a harsh lesson.

"We have put ourselves under a bit of pressure – everybody is under pressure in the Premier League, that’s what it is – and we have got to get back to the way we were three, four, five weeks ago, and there were signs last week.

"If we do that against Everton and get a win under our belts, that may kick-start us on again."

Everton are without a league win since November 8, however they have drawn their last three matches, and Bruce knows exactly what to expect.

He said: "This year they have been hamstrung a little bit with the injuries and suspensions they have had, but make no mistake they are still a very, very good team.

"I have a huge respect for them as a team. They are tough, they are uncompromising. They have not had it their own way this season because of injuries, but they will take some beating, that’s for sure."

Sunderland central defender Michael Turner starts a four-match ban tomorrow, however captain Lorik Cana returns to action.

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