Wayne Rooney claims Birmingham are improving after picking up one point from 15

Wayne Rooney remains confident he can turn things around at Birmingham – but admits the forthcoming international break will be a crucial spell in his tenure at St Andrew’s.

Rooney’s return to English football has hardly gone to plan, with the Blues’ latest 3-1 defeat at Sunderland meaning he has picked up just one point from a possible 15 since taking charge of the club.

Birmingham’s form has nosedived since John Eustace was controversially moved aside last month, but Rooney can see light at the end of the tunnel despite his side’s struggles.

However, he concedes the next two weeks will be crucial as he attempts to improve his players’ fitness levels and get his views across to his squad.

Rooney said: “The opposition we’ve played have been very good teams. The first couple of games, I didn’t think we were good enough, but there was obviously a lot of information we were trying to get across to the players.

“It was a big change in what they’d been doing, and if you look at the last three games, then as a team, I thought there were positives from Southampton, a lot of positives from Ipswich and then certainly positives again here against Sunderland.

“I’ve seen improvements, but we obviously need to start improving the results, and I really believe we will. What I’m seeing in training, and what I’m seeing from the players in matches now, is really positive.

“I think this break will help, just in terms of getting the fitness work into them. That’s important in terms of how I want my team to play. We’re gradually seeing improvement in that, and it’s a good opportunity for us now to really spend some time with the players.”

Rooney was pleased with aspects of his side’s display on Wearside, with Koji Miyoshi’s first-half goal cancelling out an opener from Jobe Bellingham.

However, he was frustrated with the defensive lapses that led to a second-half own goal from Dion Sanderson and a late strike from Sunderland substitute Adil Aouchiche.

He said: “The defending has to be better. We conceded three goals from inside the six-yard box, and that’s a real disappointment.”

Sunderland’s pre-match preparations were disrupted when Dennis Cirkin suffered a hamstring injury during the warm-up, and having promoted Nectarios Traintis to the starting line-up, Tony Mowbray was delighted with the Australian youngster’s performance on his full Championship debut.

The Sunderland boss said: “It’s frustrating with Dennis, obviously, but it’s great for Nectar. I’m delighted that him coming in has worked out so well.

“Nectar’s an amazing young man. I don’t know whether he came over expecting to get straight into Sunderland’s team and play, but with Luke O’Nien and Dan Ballard doing so well, he’s had to sit on the sidelines.

“He’s playing with the Under-21s – we sent him to Southampton the other week and he spent seven hours on a bus travelling down there and then seven hours travelling back. Yet he does it all with a smile on his face.

“He knows he’s a young footballer who hopefully has a big future at this club, but he also knows where he is in the pecking order at the moment. For him to get chucked in two minutes before kick-off was amazing for him, and I’m so happy for him because he’s such a nice kid.”

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