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Feb 21, 2011

Bruce issues Henderson warning

Steve Bruce has said that Sunderland are determined to keep young England star Jordan Henderson at the club, despite talk of a £20 million bid from the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.

Henderson, 20, has attracted attention with his performances for the club, but Bruce has maintained that he will be doing everything he can to keep hold of one of his prize assets.

"We will do whatever we have to do in terms of contracts to make sure that he is looked after," Bruce said. "As a club we want to help develop him as far as we can. My feeling is that his best chance of progressing right to the very top is to stay at Sunderland and play regular Premier League football here.

"What counts in our favour is that he is a local lad, a Sunderland supporter and he and his dad appreciate what we are trying to do for him. There will be a time for him to achieve his ambitions, but we want him to continue his development here for as long as possible.''

Bruce also believes that he can cope with the weight of expectation at the club, as they seek a valuable place in Europe at the end of the season.

"The club has had fantastic support from the owner, but I think that's exactly what it needs if it's going to make that breakthrough where it becomes genuinely successful," he told the Northern Echo. "There's a pressure in the North East that's created by the size of the crowds and that's one of the challenges any manager faces when he comes here.

"I think that the only way to break that cycle is to bring in the sort of genuine, top quality players who can take it in their stride. I think that's what has held so many North East teams of the past back - the fact that they've had the crowds, they've had the expectations, but it is very difficult to live up to that if the squad just isn't good enough.

"And the challenge for managers in building a top club in the North East - that pressure is always on - whatever success you bring, the crowds are big enough to want and expect more. That's quite a pressure, but it's what makes the challenge so attractive.

"There are some clubs where the fanbase is such that just staying in the Premier League will see you hailed as a success. But in the big two in the North East, it has been very rare in the modern era that the quality of the teams has managed to reflect the quality of the size and passion of the home crowds.

"That's why, I think, the North East has found it hard to create sustained success at the top of the table. But what a great challenge to take on, and I've got to say that I'm happy with the direction we're going in at the moment, where we've got someone like Asamoah Gyan at the club, who was a World Player of the Year nominee."

Sulley Muntari and Stephane Sessegnon arrived in a squad that already featured several internationals and Bruce believes that is a measure of the talent on show at the club.

"I don't think there's any denying that we're getting a top quality squad here now, and you need that up here," he added. "You have to be able to handle the ball and not take notice of the crowd and we have players who have that confidence.

"The results might not have been the greatest of late, but we've had terrible injury problems which are now starting to ease and I know that, as a squad and as a club, we're heading in the right direction."

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