Bruce happy to go it alone if Sessegnon signs
SUNDERLAND boss Steve Bruce is willing to negotiate the next two months with Asamoah Gyan as his only available striker. With transfer talks having stalled in the last two days, Bruce is ready to pull the plug on proposed moves for both Stoke striker Ricardo Fuller and Cardiff forward Jay Bothroyd. He remains hopeful of recruiting Stephane Sessegnon and Sulley Muntari before the transfer window closes next Monday, with the former understood to be ready to travel to Wearside to undergo a medical and discuss personal terms ahead of a proposed permanent deal. Neither is a like-for-like replacement for Darren Bent, however, which would leave Gyan and the out-of-favour David Healy as Sunderland's only fit centre-forwards for the next two months. Bruce is willing to risk such a situation, largely because Sessegnon's versatility means he could play as a striker, should the need arise. The Frenchman has spent the majority of his career playing as an attacking midfielder, often on either the left or right of a front three. However, he could lead the line as a central striker if required. Bruce is also anticipating the return of both Danny Welbeck and Fraizer Campbell before the end of March, and is reluctant to sign a stop-gap replacement who could effectively be relegated to the role of fourth-choice forward before the end of the campaign. Welbeck could be back in first-team contention in six weeks time, and with Sunderland having exited the FA Cup at the third-round stage, that could mean him missing just five more matches. Gyan's performance at Blackpool last Saturday suggested that would not be a problem, as long as he remains fit, and centre-half Anton Ferdinand is confident the Ghana international is capable of stepping out of Bent's shadow and ensuring Aston Villa's £24m man is not missed. Gyan has been something of a fitful presence since joining Sunderland for £13m last summer, scoring seven Premier League goals but starting on the substitutes' bench in two of the three league matches prior to Bent's departure. His status was always secondary to that of Bent, but with last week's events having elevated him to the role of leading striker, Ferdinand is expecting Gyan to rise to the challenge of spearheading Sunderland's European push. "Asamoah is a fantastic player," said the Black Cats centre-half. "He's proven on the world stage because he did it in the biggest tournament of all, the World Cup. "He's a world-class performer and we've seen glimpses of that this season. "The onus is on him a bit more now, but that's not something that he's going to shy away from. He's not that type of person. When you speak to him, it doesn't take you long to work out that he's not the shy or retiring sort at all. "He's got so much charisma and is someone that can take pressure on his shoulders with no worries at all. "He was brought to the squad to add quality, and he's done that in glimpses. I'm sure that now the onus is on him, he's going to shine through." The same could be said of Ferdinand in recent weeks. Having clashed with Steve Bruce in pre-season, the 25-year-old came close to leaving Wearside in August and started just three of the opening 11 Premier League matches. He was also used as a stand-in left-back before Phil Bardsley made the position his own. However, injuries to centre-halves Michael Turner and John Mensah have made him an influential figure, and he has responded with a series of impressive displays alongside stand-in skipper Titus Bramble. "I've been waiting for a run like this for a while now," said Ferdinand. "Any professional wants a run in the team, and the fact I'm going into the team with my mind clear helps. "I know exactly what I've got to do at the moment, and I'm not thinking, 'If I make a mistake here, I'm not going to be playing next week'. "That helps, as does the fact that I'm playing in the position where I see myself. I've always said I'm happy to play anywhere, and I am. But everyone knows my rightful position is centre-half and that's where I think I play best."
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