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The 50-year-old believes the Black Cats will not be amongst the drop zone come the end of the season, and pays tribute to outgoing Lactics chairman Dave Whelan

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has rubbished suggestions that his side could be involved in a relegation battle this season should they lose to Wigan on Saturday.

The Black Cats are currently sat in 15th place in the Premier League after a disappointing start to the campaign, with a string of poor results culminating in a draw at home to Fulham last weekend.

Despite his side's run of poor form, the 50-year-old has laughed off claims that the Black Cats could be dragged into a relegation battle should they fail to beat Roberto Martinez's side at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

"Listen, it's a big game, it's a big game, but I have played in big games, I have managed big games,” Bruce told reporters.

"If we win it, we go into the top 10, probably, and what's all the fuss about?

"If we lose it - I don't contemplate that. I know we are capable of winning it, but it won't be easy.

"We must have a bit of patience, a bit of bottle and a bit of guile and win the match. It's as simple as that.

"I am not even going to contemplate that we are relegation contenders. In my opinion, we have never been close to it for the past two years.

"We finished 13th in our first year and 10th last year. I am always looking up."

The former Latics boss also paid tribute to outgoing Wigan chairman Dave Whelan, hailing his ‘unmatchable’ achievement with the club.

"I don't think it will ever be repeated, what Dave Whelan has achieved at Wigan.

"It's quite remarkable, somebody from the town taking them from non-league to the Premier League and staying there for eight years and taking them to cup finals - it's a quite remarkable, remarkable story.

"I have had the pleasure of managing the club twice. It's a great little club which manages in adversity year after year after year, but does it very well.

"If it's time for him to step down, then I wish him a very, very good retirement because he certainly deserves it."

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