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Bruce stands by Ilunga comments; Bruce adamant criticism earned by Ilunga.

STEVE Bruce is adamant he had every right to criticise the conduct of West Ham's Herita Ilunga for his part in Kenwyne Jones's sending-off last weekend, writes LUKE EDWARDS. Bruce earned the wrath of Hammers' assistant manager Steve Clarke this week after he accused Ilunga of play-acting in order to ensure Jones was shown a red card. That prompted Clarke to counter that Bruce should not be talking about opposition players, while also attacking what he saw as the persistent fouling of Black Cats skipper Lorik Cana during the game and arguing Ilunga was nothing more than "an innocent victim. Maybe I am not supposed to talk about other people's players," said Bruce, with more than a hint of sarcasm.

"I will take that on board, that's for sure, but I am still not going to change my thoughts that the boy rolled around and play-acted and the rest of it.

"I take his point I should not comment on his players, but it affected my player because he got my player sent off. I think I was in my right to voice my opinion on it.

"I said from the offset that Kenwyne was silly in what he did. I can't defend what he did, we all know the rules, we all get carried away with it, but I have got to say I believe the actions of the player got my player sent off, no matter what Steve Clarke says and does. "I said at the time Kenwyne deserved to get sent off by pushing someone, but the way Ilunga reacted I am not going to change my mind about that.

"If anyone disagrees I ask them to look at it again. I take his point I should not talk about his players, but I am sure he would agree he rather overreacted." Bruce was a little surprised by the force of former Newcastle coach Clarke's comments earlier this week and, privately, annoyed by what was said. However, Sunderland's manager also knows when to be a diplomat and he insisted there was no lasting damage caused by the spat. He said: "I had a drink with Steve after the game and I will next time I see him. It is all part and parcel of the game and gives you something to talk about. "It is water under the bridge, we got a response from Steve and he won the other night (against Aston Villa) and I am pleased about that and I don't think he will give a monkeys.

It's all forgotten." While Bruce may have felt Jones was harshly treated by referee Andre Marriner, he has little sympathy for the Trinidad and Tobago international, who will miss tomorrow.'s trip to Tottenham Hotspur through suspension. With Cana and Lee Cattermole injured and John Mensah and Bolo Zenden also missing, the Black Cats travel to White Hart Lane with a patched-up squad that will include untried Irish youngster David Meyler. Bruce added: "We have to go into next three games without Kenwyne. We will miss him and he will be a big miss because the strike force has been the reason why we are where we are because we are always a threat going forward. "Thankfully Fraizer (Campbell) came through training this week. He hurt his thigh in the game against Villa and we think he will be okay. Mensah and Zenden won't make it, so we are without four or five, which will be a test us, but that's the way Premier League is. "We've played five games away from home. We've done very well against Bolton and Manchester United, but it we play like we did at Burnley we will get our backsides kicked. If we play like we did at Man U, we have got a chance."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 6, 2009
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