Benjani out to make his move permanent
BENJANI is hoping to earn a permanent contract with Sunderland by helping confound his former team-mate Kanu's prediction that the Black Cats will be relegated this season. The Zimbabwe international joined Sunderland on loan from Manchester City on transfer deadline day, and is already hoping to turn the current short-term arrangement into a more permanent switch in the summer. He will be out to impress from the substitutes' bench this evening as he returns to his former stamping ground at Fratton Park, and is reunited with his close friend Kanu. The pair have exchanged a number of telephone calls since Benjani moved to the Stadium of Light, with the Black Cats' most recent signing suggesting that Portsmouth are destined for relegation this season. Kanu's response was to claim that the Black Cats are heading the same way, but Benjani has already seen enough to convince him that Sunderland will survive. Of course I would like to stay, said the striker, who scored 19 goals in 62 league starts for Pompey. That is the reason I came here. But I have to prove myself if I want to stay in the long term. If I can convince the manager I am worth it, of course I would like to be here and win a contract. I hope to play so well the manager has no choice but to keep me, and that starts with the next game at Portsmouth. I knew the Portsmouth game was coming quickly after I signed, and it will be a very special occasion. I played well for Portsmouth, and it was a very special time for all of us who were at the club then. There are still some of those players there David James, Kanu and John Utaka. I speak to them all the time. I am always on the phone with the King' (Kanu). I have joked with him. I told him, You are going down', and when I joined Sunderland, he said, You will be with us!' I said, No, no, no it's not like that'. That will not happen. Benjani was an 87th-minute substitute as Sunderland drew 1-1 with Wigan last weekend, and with Darren Bent and Kenwyne Jones firmly established as Steve Bruce's first-choice strike pairing, the African accepts will have to bide his time, but insists he has not moved to Wearside to become Sunderland's third or fourth-choice striker. I know they have two great, great players already at the club, said Benjani. The only way to get in is to push really, really hard. I didn't come here to sit on the bench, but I know they are both good players so I will need to work really hard and make the most of the chances I get. If they keep playing as well as they did on Saturday, I know I will be on the bench. But I will just keep pushing more and more. Tonight's game pits Sunderland against a Portsmouth side that are in meltdown as the club's financial problems continue to mount. On the pitch, Pompey are seven points adrift of safety at the foot of the table, while off it, the club face a winding up order in the High Court tomorrow. Their prospects could hardly be bleaker, but having watched Avram Grant's side knock Sunderland out of the FA Cup last month, Bruce will be taking nothing for granted as he attempts to end a run of 11 Premier League matches without a win. I've just watched a DVD of Portsmouth's game against Fulham (last Wednesday), and I thought they were excellent, said the Black Cats boss. They missed a number of chances and could quite easily have won the game. No matter what else is going on there, they still have good players. Whatever else is happening, they still have a sprinkling of real talent. I know it's been turmoil, and it must be chaos when you're trying to work in there, but as we saw in the cup, they've been professional and I'm sure they won't be giving anything up. They'll be looking at this game and thinking if they can get a result against us, it'll put them right back in with the pack again. Sunderland will be without Jordan Henderson tonight, but the full extent of the midfielder's ankle injury will not be apparent until he has a detailed scan on Thursday. It's pointless scanning him now because we're going to have to wait for the swelling to go down, said Bruce, who has also lost Fraizer Campbell to injury. We hope it's nothing more severe than a badly-twisted ankle. If that's the case, it'll probably be four to six weeks. If it's something more serious, it'll be longer. SUNDERLAND (probable, 4-4-2): Gordon; Hutton, Kilgallon, Turner, McCartney; Malbranque, Cana, Cattermole, Reid; Jones, Bent.
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