Sunderland Fires Bruce After Dropping to 16th in Premier League

Sunderland fired manager Steve Bruce after slipping to 16th in English soccer’s Premier League following a run of four matches without a win.

The 50-year-old, who spent 2 1/2 years in charge, led the Black Cats to three home victories in 2011 and was subjected to chants of “Bruce out” during a 2-1 loss to Wigan at the Stadium of Light on Nov. 26.

“It is my job as chairman to act in the best interests of our football club at all times, and I can assure everyone that this is not a decision I have taken lightly,” Sunderland Chairman Ellis Short said in a statement on the club’s website.

Bruce leaves with Sunderland with 11 points from 13 matches, two points above the three relegation positions. The Black Cats finished 13th in his first full season, then 10th last season.

The former Manchester United player joined Sunderland in June 2009 from Wigan to replace Ricky Sbragia, who stepped down at the end of the previous campaign after helping the club avoid relegation.

Backed by funding from Short, who completed a takeover of Sunderland in 2009, Bruce made a number of high profile signings since last season including Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Craig Gardner and Connor Wickham. Short is a former vice chairman of American real-estate investment firm Lone Star Funds.

The club has struggled to score goals in the absence of last season’s top-scorers Asamoah Gyan and Darren Bent. Gyan, signed for a club record 13 million pounds ($20.4 million) by Bruce, is on loan at Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates, while Bent joined Aston Villa in January.

Goal Drought

Midfielder Sebastian Larsson leads the team’s scoring this season with four goals, while strikers Nicklas Bendtner, Ji Dong-Won and Wickham have four between them.

The team missed several chances in the home defeat against Wigan, which was its sixth loss in the league. It also has two wins and five draws.

“Sadly, results this season have simply not been good enough, and I feel the time is right to make a change,” Short said.

Bruce, a long-time fan of Sunderland’s northeast rival Newcastle United, has previously managed at Sheffield United, Huddersfield, Crystal Palace and Birmingham City. He had a brief earlier spell at Wigan in 2001.

Assistant manager Eric Black will temporary charge, the club said.

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