STEVE Bruce has to stick to his principles in order to turn Sunderland around, according to fans' favourite Gary Bennett.

Bruce's position has been questioned repeatedly in recent weeks, with the Black Cats struggling in 16th position ahead of Sunday's testing trip to Arsenal.

Both outgoing chairman, Niall Quinn, and his replacement, Ellis Short, have thrown their weight behind the embattled boss, who is due to return from a brand-spreading tour of South Korea later this morning.

And Bennett, who is a respected co-commentator on BBC Newcastle, is confident Bruce can salvage Sunderland's season provided he retains faith in the attitudes and beliefs he first brought to Wearside two-and-a-half years ago.

"Steve is more than capable of turning this around, said Bennett, who launched his new book, "The Black Cat: Gary Bennett's Football Scrapbook", at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday. "I'm sure he has that belief and the fans have to believe it too.

"It has been difficult for him, but he would have known what he was getting into when he took the job on.

"It's not helpful when the manager's position is being questioned all the time, but I think we all know that the only way to get rid of all that is through results. But, as a manager, you'll only get results if you don't deviate from your principles.

"Steve has to remain firm in what he believes in. He has his ideas for the club and he has to stick by them even though things are a little bit sticky at the moment.

"He showed what he could do last season by taking the team into the top half of the table, and it's important everyone sticks together to give him the best chance of doing it again.

"If you start winning games and performing well, no one is interested in the negative things around the football club."

Such lingering negativity reflects a record that has seen Sunderland win just one of their opening eight matches this season.

Things weren't supposed to be like this following a summer that saw Bruce spend more than £20m on ten new additions, and the Black Cats' struggles have been exacerbated by the strong performance of the club's greatest rivals, Newcastle United.

Bennett accepts that Newcastle's lengthy unbeaten run has made Sunderland's poor start even harder to stomach, and highlights August's derby defeat at the Stadium of Light as the point at which the two clubs' fortunes began to diverge.

"You're always going to reflect back onto the second game of the season," he said. "When you're from the North-East, you know what it means to both clubs.

"We played well in the first half but didn't take our opportunities - they took their opportunity and won the game. You can see what it has done for their club, and what it's done for ours.

"All of a sudden, they've got confidence, whereas we've taken a while to get things out of our system. When you win games, confidence is high. You've seen that up the road.

"They've also been able to pick the same team week in, week out and that helps. That hasn't really happened with Sunderland. You need a settled back four and an understanding between the defenders and the goalkeeper. You need to know what each individual is going to do. Newcastle have been able to put that in place and maybe we haven't."

Bennett will be at the Emirates on Sunday to see if Sunderland can spring a surprise against an Arsenal side with problems of their own, but will spend much of the next month promoting his latest publication.

Inspired to revisit his career following the death of his mother three years ago, the former centre-half, who made 444 appearances for Sunderland between 1984-95, collated a series of previously unseen pictures and cuttings he had collected.

The result is a scrapbook that guides supporters through the highs and lows of his time at Sunderland, as well shedding a new light onto his spells with other clubs including Darlington, Scarborough and Carlisle United.

"I collected pictures right throughout my career," said Bennett. "I lost my mam about three years ago, and when that happened, I took some time to look back at the old cuttings and remember a few things about my life.

"It triggered a lot of memories, and I thought it might be nice to share some of those with the supporters who were so good to me when I played.

"There's stuff there from right through my career, but the bulk are from my Sunderland days and I'm pretty sure people won't have seen a lot of the personal pictures before. All the pictures tell a story as well."