STEVE Bruce has vowed to work to put the smile on Asamoah Gyan’s face – after “parasites” around the Ghanaian wiped it off.
As one of two Sunderland players injured while on international duty, Gyan will miss today’s Premier League visit of Chelsea. He must wait at least a fortnight to put a turbulent transfer window behind him.
The £13m club record signing was linked with a host of clubs from Tottenham Hotspur, to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, to the giants of Turkish football and Marseille, who Bruce claims asked for Gyan on loan, despite sporting director José Anigo alleging the initiative came from Wearside. Bruce says no one submitted bids.
The Black Cats boss is convinced the speculation caused a change in Gyan’s normally extrovert demeanour – and his sluggish performances.
“Thankfully the window is gone, and me and my staff have got to get Asa turned around into being the striker we paid a lot of money for, the striker who lit up the stadium with his antics,” said Bruce.
“He always had a smile on his face. You’ve seen Asa for the last six weeks, it’s not him. Something’s been bothering him. I’ve said to him, ‘Look, if an offer comes in, I will show you it.’ Until that day he’s got to get back playing. That’s my challenge.
“There has never been a time when I contemplated selling and I cannot see any of the Turkish clubs being able to afford him.”
Gyan has a hamstring strain, while John O’Shea injured his calf with the Republic of Ireland. Both are expected to miss two weeks.
Gyan’s place will be taken by Nicklas Bendtner, on a season-long loan from Arsenal. Bruce would have preferred a permanent deal, but could not get close to his Arsenal wages.
“His arrival does give Asamoah Gyan a reminder, but we also have Connor (Wickham) and Ji (Dong-Won) who scored two for South Korea the other day,” argued Bruce.
“The big thing for Asa is to stop the nonsense in his head, all this which has been around since he played well at Wembley (scoring a 90th-minute equaliser in Ghana’s 1-1 draw with England in March).
“Since that game at Wembley all the parasites, as I call them, hover around. People are in his ear constantly trying to engineer a deal for him.
“Certainly since the England game something has been troubling him. I think it has affected him but we have not had one offer for Asamoah Gyan.”
Bruce goes into today’s game looking for a first win this season, but buoyed by memories of last term’s 3-0 success at Chelsea.
“Suddenly a draw away at Swansea is not good enough,” he said of the expectations on him this year.
“Two years ago, you would take a point at any Premier League ground, no matter who, but that is what we have created. Last season I went from the worst moment of my career (a 5-1 defeat at Newcastle United) to the best in a couple of weeks. It was arguably as good a Premier League result as this club has had.”
Bruce will choose between Titus Bramble and Michael Turner to replace Anton Ferdinand, who has joined Queens Park Rangers. Neither have started a game this season, but played 90 minutes in a behind-closed-doors reserve team friendly.
Meanwhile, the bizarre saga of Steed Malbranque has taken another twist.
The French midfielder joined St Etienne from Sunderland this summer, but played once before his contract was cancelled.
He is unhappy it has been portrayed as retirement and is not ruling out a return to England.
“I never said that,” he said. “The club said that. I am still hesitant.”