JOHN MENSAH wants to repay the faith shown in him by his manager, Steve Bruce, by proving to Sunderland fans he deserves to be known as the Rock rather than Crock of Gibraltar.

Mensah has played back-to-back matches in the Premier League this month and it has not got much better than that for the World Cup defender during his time with the Black Cats.

A chronic back problem, which can be corrected by surgery that would rule him out of action for a significant amount of time, has sparked a number of little other problems and prevented him from starting more than eight matches this season.

But Bruce remains a huge admirer of the centre-back's ability and value to his squad and clings on to the hope that Mensah will become a regular in his team.

The 28-year-old is more than two-thirds through a second season long-loan from French club Olympique Lyonnais, with Bruce still to make up his mind whether or not to make the move permanent in the summer.

Mensah hopes a deal can be struck, although there is no way Sunderland will meet the valuation which his employers have of him, believed to be around the £8m mark.

"Sunderland know I have helped my nation and my previous clubs before, and they want me to play a lot for them. They know the kind of player I am," said Mensah, given the moniker of the Rock of Gibraltar because of his physique.

"I myself don't feel happy at all when I'm injured because if someone likes you, you should show why. If you don't play, it's difficult for people to know why the manager wants you.

"Sunderland's a big team and I'm happy to play for them because they make me feel happy when I'm injured and they motivate me, everyone works hard to get me fit. I feel a lot of happiness towards Sunderland, the support they give me is so lovely."

Mensah's return to the side has failed to prevent Sunderland from slipping to three successive defeats in the Premier League, which has led to them losing a grip on sixth spot to Liverpool.

But the Ghanaian, who figured in four games in the space of 19 days during his country's progress to the quarter finals of last summer's World Cup, thinks he is yet to reach his best since making his comeback.

"I'm always confident but sometimes when I come back from injury it can be really difficult," said Mensah, who had not played since December 18 before starting in the 3-2 defeat at Stoke on February 5.

"But if you continue to keep playing you can see the confidence come back. I have a lot of confidence wherever I go. We all know Sunderland have a good team and the good teams have a good bench as well. Everyone on the bench, everyone who plays, is a good player at Sunderland, so we have to make sure we are determined to win the matches."

Sunderland remain in the hunt for a European place ahead of Saturday's trip to Everton, but to stand any chance Bruce knows he needs his players to return to the miserly way they started the season.

The basis for Sunderland's promising start was the foundations laid by a solid backline, keeping 12 clean sheets and rarely conceding more than one goal.

But Bruce has looked on in frustration in recent weeks, conceding nine goals in their last three outings, and Mensah is confident improvements will soon be made.

Mensah said: "We shouldn't look at one person to blame, it's about all of the boys. We have to make sure we get to the ball. Anyone who can get the ball away should go for it, you shouldn't just leave it to someone else because you're worried about leaving your opponent.

"If you have the chance to get to the ball, just do it. We all defend together. I think we're going to work hard to make sure we don't concede goals the way we have in the last three games.

"We have to work together to make sure we stop this kind of thing from happening. The manager is working hard with us to sort this out.

"It's important we talk to each other to make sure we give confidence so that people are doing things the right way. Even if a player is struggling it's important you keep talking to them to make sure their confidence comes back."