Bruce - Step up Anton
Steve Bruce has challenged Anton Ferdinand to fill the breach at the heart of Sunderland's defence.
Last Updated: 04/12/10 5:33pm
Steve Bruce has challenged Anton Ferdinand to fill the breach at the heart of the Sunderland defence.
Ferdinand will face his former club West Ham on Sunday and should play, as first choice defensive pairing Michael Turner and Titus Bramble are injured.
Bruce is concerned after his team conceded three goals against Wolves last weekend, and is urging Ferdinand to follow the example of Danny Welbeck and grab his opportunity in the team.
Along with John Mensah, he is set to start the game at the heart of defence on Sunday.
"Here's his challenge," said Bruce. "He's been here a couple of years and it's about time he grabbed it. That's the challenge to him.
"It's a bit like Danny Welbeck's done, coming into the team and giving me a huge, huge problem. I hope Anton can do that too.
"John Mensah needs a run of games as well. We all know what a talented player he is but we need them to step up to the plate.
"I've still got [Paulo] Da Silva and the option of [Nedum] Onuoha, too. But they're the immediate ones; the challenge is there for Mensah and Ferdinand.
"We were disappointed last week because defensively we were all over the place and gave away bad goals, which hasn't been us. That was us last year.
"There's only Chelsea and Manchester United have kept more clean sheets and that was the reason for our success, we didn't give much away, we were hard to beat.
"It's cruel we've lost two of them, I just hope we can overcome that."
Since arriving at the Stadium of Light via an impressive World Cup, Da Silva has only made two appearances.
This has raised questions over his long-term future but Bruce is leaving the door ajar for him to become a regular.
"It's inevitable when he's not a first-team regular," explained Bruce, of the speculation engulfing the player.
"Paulo is a terrific player; he had a fantastic World Cup. He's been restricted because of the form of Turner and Bramble but I'm sure over the next few weeks, he'll get his chance again and it's up to him to grasp it as well."