SUNDERLAND boss Steve Bruce was able to breathe a big sigh of relief last night as the Premier League finally agreed to allow Benjani’s protracted move to Wearside to go through.
The Black Cats faced an anxious wait yesterday after they failed to get all of the necessary paperwork to the Premier League and the Football Association before the 5pm deadline because of a meltdown in the club’s computer and communications network.
In normal circumstances that would have forced Sunderland – who had already agreed to let David Healy and Daryl Murphy go out on loan to Ipswich Town – to pull the plug on the transfer, but the Premier League were eventually convinced the excuse was valid.
Although initially sceptical of Sunderland’s claims as the paperwork from Alan Hutton’s move to the Stadium of Light had been received without any problems earlier in the day, they eventually validated the transfer after they were given independent proof the technical problems at the club’s training ground on Monday afternoon were genuine.
That ensured Benjani became
Sunderland’s third signing of the transfer window and will give the Black Cats added firepower as they look to turn their season around.
The 31-year-old has initially joined on loan until the end of the season, although the Zimbabwe international will hope to do enough on Wearside between now and May to convince Bruce to turn it into a permanent stay in the summer.
Bruce said: “He’s a big, strong, powerful centre-forward and one we’ve been tracking for a long time. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to bring him to the club. He’ll bring another dimension to our striking options and will be a great addition to the squad.”
Bruce has been understandably thrilled by Darren Bent’s impact in his first season in the North East, but he was concerned about the lack of suitable cover in the event his top goalscorer picked up an injury.
Although Fraizer Campbell remains a player of vast potential, he has failed to prove he is ready for a regular starting berth and has often been used in a wide role by Bruce, who is trying to gradually get him used to life in the Premier League.
The arrival of Benjani will also give Kenwyne Jones proper competition for a place in the starting line-up.
Jones’ performance against Stoke City on Monday night was an encouraging one – and much improved on recent weeks – as he tries to put a difficult transfer window behind him, but it will help to keep him on his toes.
Benjani, whose move to Sunderland was resurrected late on Monday after talks regarding a permanent deal had broken down over personal terms last weekend, is likely to be on the bench for the visit of Wigan Athletic on Saturday.
The striker, who has also played for Auxerre in France, as well as Portsmouth and Manchester City in the Premier League, has only played six first-team games this season and is bound to be lacking match sharpness.
Benjani’s only goal of the current campaign came in the 1-0 FA Cup win at Middlesbrough and he scored just seven goals in 31 games following a £4m move to the City of Manchester Stadium two years ago.