x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Bruce: Competitive edge makes Premier League unique

The Sunderland manager defends his Blackburn Rovers counterpart, Sam Allardyce, amid the ongoing debate over reckless tackling.

Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, has defended his Blackburn Rovers counterpart, Sam Allardyce, amid the ongoing debate over reckless tackling.

The two managers will go head-to-head at Ewood Park tonight with Allardyce's approach having been questioned by Danny Murphy, the Fulham midfielder, who singled out Rovers, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Stoke City for criticism over the physical nature of their play.

Bruce and Allardyce are close friends and the Sunderland manager insists Allardyce's reputation is unwarranted. He said the competitive nature of the Premier League made it unique.

"If we take it away [the physical aspect], we will end up like leagues in France and Spain and Italy where, if I take you to a game, it is just all technique and there is no real physical element.

"It is half the pace our games are at and if we take away that element, we will take away what we have got in this country, which is a fantastic competitive division.

"I think I speak for Sam and every other manager; none of us want to go and send a team out that will physically hurt anybody else, that is absolute nonsense.

"I don't know where Danny's comments have come from … His manager Mark Hughes, for instance, had a Blackburn team that was very competitive.

"This Premier League is the way it is and the biggest spectacle that is beamed around the world because of the competitive nature of it, and if we take that away, we will just end up like everybody else."

Sunderland have drawn with Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United in their last three league games, but know the degree of difficulty is unlikely to drop.

Bruce said: "We know what to expect. You all know I am a big friend of Sam and enjoy his company, and whenever you are up against his teams, you know physically if you don't stand up and be counted, you will be caught short."

11pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 3 & 5