Bruce offers Cana backing

Black Cats skipper expected to return to form

Cana: Loves a tackle

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Sunderland boss Steve Bruce admits in an ideal world he would rest captain Lorik Cana but is backing him to return to form in any case.

The talented Albanian made a flying start to life in the North East upon joining the club from Marseille in the summer, quickly establishing himself as a fans' favourite and being handed the armband.

Such was his form rumours began to circulate that some of the Premier League's top clubs were monitoring his progress at the Stadium of Light.

However, Cana by his own admission has found the relentless nature of English football a drain on his physical resources.

Bruce concedes he might have handed the man he appointed captain a mid-season break, but with the Black Cats now facing a real battle to stave off the spectre of relegation - they sit just three points clear of the drop zone after a run of 14 league games without a win - he is confident Cana is ready to bring his influence to the fore once again.

He said: "It's fair to say that if I had people available and fit, he could have done with a break from it.

"He is used to having a month off at Christmas. He had a wonderful start, but he has found the Premier League now for what it is.

"It is so demanding and so tough, but make no mistake, he will be all right.

"There have been times when I would like to have freshened him up a little bit and given him the weekend off, but it's not been possible."

Cana's no-nonsense tackling has been a big hit with the Sunderland faithful but he has come in for criticism from some quarters for being over enthusiastic.

With tackling back in the news following Aaron Ramsey's horror injury last weekend any recklessness is likely to be dealt with severely.

No change

But Cana insists he has no intention of modifying his natural game as he vows to give his all between now and the rest of the season.

"We play for a big club in front of a lot of fans and we have to give the maximum with everything - running, tackling, shooting, heading," he told the Sunderland Echo.

"If the ball is between two players and I think I can win it, then I will go for it with everything.

"Two-footed? I don't think I have ever done that, but sometimes you are stretching to reach the ball with one foot and the other foot leaves the ground.

"It is not my nature to try to hurt anyone and, of course, it is terrible when bad injuries happen, but I always try to play my own game and I am not thinking about if I need to stop doing something.

"I just try my best every week to win for the team."