Sunderland boss Steve Bruce will not bow to the pressure of the toughest spell of his reign to date.
The 49-year-old enjoyed a hugely encouraging start to his tenure on Wearside, amassing 20 Barclays Premier League points from the first 39 on offer. However, with injuries and suspensions having decimated Bruce's squad during the ensuing weeks, the last nine league games have brought just three points and seen the club slide to a position which sees them head into Monday's home clash with Stoke in 13th place and only three points clear of the drop zone.
He said: "It's been the toughest, yes, but it's part and parcel of it. I could make excuses all day long of what the problems are - the simple fact is we need to get people fit."
He added: "Once we do that and I can get my big players fit, we will be all right. Please believe me, we will be all right.
"But until then, and until I can get a settled back four in particular, we are always going to find it a little bit difficult.
"When you are on a run like we are, you have to come out of it quickly."
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