Stevie nicks yet another Brucey Bonus from the Americas

Premier League: Steve Bruce at Sunderland

Stevie nicks yet another Brucey Bonus from the Americas.

It came as little surprise to see Steve Bruce dip his hand into the Americas early as he begins to stamp his authority on the Sunderland team. The addition of Paraguayan centre-back Paulo Da Silva will hopefully add some of the steel required to shore up one of the leakiest defences in last season’s Premier League.

Bruce acted fast to secure Da Silva’s services as the Paraguayan captain signed a three-year deal with the Wearside club despite overtures of interest from a number of Premier League rivals. It is a sign of the increasing respect that Bruce governs in this part of the world that the established Da Silva should choose to join up with the Black Cats.

The Paraguayan skipper has been capped 61 times by his country and Bruce’s network of scouts have witnessed the defender help his nation inch its way towards next summer’s World Cup in South Africa as well as being named Player of the Season in Mexico last year.. Now Da Silva must prepare for the challenge of keeping out some of the world’s top marksmen when he pulls on the Sunderland shirt.

“Firstly, I must adapt to life in England and I want to help Sunderland to the best league position possible,” the defender told his new club’s website. “It’s a good challenge and I am very happy to be in the best league in the world.”

“Sunderland are a great club, I am very happy and I wish the Premier League could start today.” Added a bullish Da Silva.

He may not be a household name for many football fans but his new manager is sure that Da Silva has all the attributes to make it at The Stadium of Light.

“Paulo comes with a great pedigree as captain of his club and his country,” said Bruce at the player’s unveiling.

“I’ve seen him play on a couple of occasions and I can tell you he’s a very, very good player whose credentials are there for all to see."

High praise indeed from one of the most consistent and successful centre-backs the Premier League has ever seen. With Bruce’s experience of getting the best out of his recruits from the Americas as well as his work over the years with defenders such as Matthew Upson there is cause for optimism among the Sunderland faithful.

After an auspicious start to his management career which saw Bruce start and finish stints at Sheffield United, Huddersfield Town, Wigan Athletic and Crystal Palace in the space of three years the former Manchester United captain eventually settled at Birmingham City.

It was during his time at Birmingham that Bruce was able to demonstrate his keen eye for promising players. After taking the Blues up to the Premier League during his first season with the club the manager was afforded the money to experiment with signings.

The first Latin American to sign for Bruce’s Birmingham City was Argentine Luciano Figueroa who was plucked straight from Rosario Central at a cost of £250,000. The striker turned out to be a flop but helped change Bruce’s approach to signing players from South America.

Bruce changed his style to try before you buy and the next Latino to join up was Walter Pandiani, the Uruguayan hitman nicknamed The Rifle. Pandiani joined on loan for the backend of the 2004/2005 season and his goals help the Blues to a 12th placed finish in the Premier League.

Unfortunately after signing Pandiani on a permanent basis the following season the striker struggled to replicate the form which had impressed Bruce and the Uruguayan was sent packing at Christmas.

There were some tough times for Bruce round the corner as Birmingham were relegated that season but the young manager was able to take the club back up to the top tier at the first attempt.

Among the names to join Birmingham for the start of their 2007/08 Premier League campaign was the Honduran midfielder Wilson Palacios. Getting Palacios on loan signalled Bruce’s scouting network had worked its way north of the Panama Canal.

With boardroom rifts undermining Bruce’s efforts on the pitch the manager left Birmingham City for a second spell at Wigan Athletic just two months into this latest campaign.

One of his first bits of business at the JJB was to bring in Wilson Palacios on a permanent basis as well as getting Ecuadoran Antonio Valencia on loan from Villerreal. Along with Palacios’ countryman Maynor Figueroa and some more shrewd deals for players from far and wide Bruce turned the Latics from relegation fighters to Europa League contenders in the space of two seasons.

Even now that he has upped sticks once again it seems Wigan Athletic will continue to benefit from Bruce’s time at the club just as Birmingham City have done.

While the contacts Bruce made while at St Andrews helped broker a deal to bring in the Ecuadoran duo of record signing Christian Benitez and experienced defender Giovanny Espinoza the new management at Wigan is also looking forward to chasing up the still warm trails Bruce left behind.

“We’ve had a lot of success at this club with the South American and Central American markets,” said new Wigan boss Roberto Martinez. “We need to spread our network and make sure we bring the players we need for a really competitive and healthy dressing room.”

While at The Stadium of Light last season’s hero of the hour Ricky Sbragia has been installed in the new role of director of scouting. The specially designed role is part of a shake up in the way the club identifies the new talent so important to Bruce.

Sunderland’s balance sheet may still be reeling from Roy Keane’s free spending but Sbragia along with current chief scout Mick Brown will be handed Bruce’s book of contacts in South and Central America and expected to turn up yet more of the good stuff.

One player already known to Bruce who could soon bolster the Latin American contigentent on Wearside is Chilean marksman Humberto Suazo. The leading scorer in international football back in 2006 is still only 28-year-old and banging them in for Monterrey in Mexico as well as for his national side.

The time to act on El Chupete Suazo could be now before a good showing in South Africa at the end of the season could see his value sky rocket.


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