Bruce eyes Mensah to bolster defence

10 August 2009 09:52
Hearts 1 Sunderland 1

SUNDERLAND manager Steve Bruce will spend the next week bolstering his defensive ranks with Lyon defender John Mensah expected to be the first to arrive.

With Liverpool, Manchester City and Aston Villa all threatening Sunderlands bid to bring Portsmouths Sylvain Distin to the Stadium of Light, Bruce will attempt to secure Mensahs signature in the next 48 hours.

The 26-year-old Ghanaian has told the French club he wants to play in the Premier League and a season-long loan deal with a view to permanent £6m transfer should be completed early this week.

The Black Cats face competition from Portsmouth and West Ham for Mensah, but Bruce is confident he can persuade the player to join him.

He was first alerted to Mensah while Birmingham boss and the defensive display in the 1-1 draw at Hearts on Saturday has reaffirmed the need to strengthen his backline.

Before the end of the transfer window I would hope we can get a couple of players in. I realise were a bit short defensively, said Bruce, who will also resurrect his interest in Wigan midfielder Lee Cattermole.

Its defensively we have to work. Not just the defenders but defending as a team.

Were a bit naive at times.

I think it would be wrong of me to comment on other peoples players but yes hes (Distin) a player weve liked and admired.

Ive been mentioned now with 77 players in six weeks.

Not bad. Ive signed four of them. Well have a hell of a big squad.

Mensah is also someone were looking at.

Bruce is also keen to add Lucas Neill to his squad and the naiveity of the defence was clear to see in the draw at Tynecastle.

Sunderland were on the back foot within three minutes as Lee Wallace forced Marton Fulop into a low save at his near post and the Hungarian was kept busy for most of the 90 minutes.

He was beaten only once, David Obua swivelling and volleying in one expert movement on the half hour after the defence failed to clear a Suso Santana corner. But the goalkeeper was forced to make half a dozen saves after the break.

There was a goal on his first start for £10m signing Darren Bent, who bundled home in the box after Hearts keeper Marian Kello splendidly decked out in a luminous lime top could only parry Phil Bardsleys effort.

Fulop was the saviour after the break, and was pleased with the workout with rival Craig Gordon close to full fitness.

Its always nice to be busy and its a good opportunity to show what you can do, especially in the last pre-season game, said Fulop.

But we must defend as a team. It starts from the striker, the striker needs to close players down when they try to get the ball forward.

They say that strikers can be the best defenders. They must make sure there are no inactive minutes for the defenders.

As a team we need to defend well.

Fulop was the only player on international duty this week who started Saturdays game and Bruce is annoyed that some of his squad will not be back in training until Friday Its totally ridiculous.

Nothing surprises me any more, Ive been in this ten years. But you go into your first game of the season and weve got 13 players away,

said Bruce.

I wont see some of them until Friday. You can imagine what I think of that, but thats the way it is.

Ive got eight or nine pencilled in (for Bolton). Ill take my time and see how the others cope. Ill watch on teletext like everyone else and hope all the big internationals come back fit and healthy.

Hearts: Kello; Jonsson, Bouzid (Zaliukas 47mins), Goncalves, Wallace (Kurchaski, 78), Suso, Stewart, Palazuelos (Black 67), Obua, Witeeveen (Glen, 51), Nade. Subs (not used): Balogh, Stewart, Thomson Sunderland: Fulop; Bardsley, Nosworthy (Tainio 80mins), Ferdinand, Collins (McCartney, 60), Malbranque (Henderson 53), Leadbitter (Jones 53), Reid (Cana 53), Richardson (Edwards 71), Campbell, Bent (Healy 81). Subs (not used): Carson (gk).

Source: Northern_Echo