Spurs defender on the way but Benjani deal off

01 February 2010 10:08
SUNDERLAND expect to complete the signing of Tottenham defender Alan Hutton ahead of this evening's Premier League home game with Stoke, but their pursuit of Benjani Mwaruwari is over after they failed to agree personal terms with the Manchester City striker.

The Black Cats were given permission to speak to Hutton yesterday after Tottenham agreed to release the Scotland international.

The exact terms of the deal are still to be finalised, but while Sunderland had been hoping to secure a permanent deal they could have to settle for a loan until the end of season.

Hutton travelled to Wearside yesterday to discuss personal terms and begin a medical at Sunderland's Academy of Light training ground.

That will be completed this morning, and Black Cats boss Steve Bruce is confident of completing the formalities of the 25-year-old's transfer ahead of today's 5pm deadline.

Hutton cost Spurs £9m when he moved from Rangers in January 2008, but has only made 20 Premier League starts in the two years since.

He has tumbled down the pecking order in recent weeks, with Harry Redknapp preferring to field Vedran Corluka at right-back.

Confirmation of his transfer will bring an end to a protracted search for a right-back that has also seen Bruce make approaches to Guy Demel, Habib Beye, Rod Fanni and Burnley's Tyrone Mears this month.

The Sunderland boss could also make a deadline-day swoop for a second defender, with Rangers centre-half Madjid Bougherra having emerged as a late target.

Rangers boss Walter Smith is willing to part company with Bougherra this month, but ensuring the Hutton deal is concluded smoothly will be Bruce's priority in the final hours of the transfer window.

Sunderland have no interest in Tottenham striker Robbie Keane despite a series of weekend reports linking the club with the Republic of Ireland international, and Benjani will also not be moving to Wearside this month after talks broke down over the weekend.

Manchester City accepted the Black Cats' £1.5m offer on Friday, and Benjani and his representatives held a number of discussions with Sunderland officials.

However, the striker's wage demands proved an insurmountable obstacle, and talks broke down late on Saturday.

Sunderland are also understood to harbour concerns over Benjani's poor recent injury record.

The Zimbabwean's proposed arrival was never linked to Kenwyne Jones' position at the Stadium of Light, but the failure to land Benjani will only have stiffened Bruce's resolve to hold on to the Trinidad & Tobago international until the summer at least.

Bruce has spent the weekend pondering transfer matters, but has also been focusing on the preparation of his team for this evening's game against the Potters.

Michael Turner and Phil Bardsley are both possible starters after returning to training this weekend, but Lee Cattermole will miss out as he continues to recover from a leg problem.

The weekend's results have left Sunderland three points clear of the relegation zone, and after winning just one of their last 13 league games, a victory this evening is essential if they are to avoid being dragged into a frantic relegation fight.

Darren Bent's continued good form has provided one of the few rays of light in recent weeks, and the England international admits that he and his team-mates are finding it difficult to account for the club's sudden nosedive in form.

It is difficult to put your finger on precisely why it has happened and where it started,

said Bent. One week we were beating Arsenal and being talked about as this great team, and suddenly it's completely turned around and we're getting beaten too easily.

We're conceding silly goals and we're not defending well as a team. It's hard to know why it has swung so far the other way, but we must keep positive and we'll start to pick up results again.

I don't think expectations were raised too high at the start of the season because, with the way we were playing and some of the results we got, it was warranted that people were saying we should be fighting for European qualification.

But for one reason or another, we've not played well over the last few months and let our standards slip. All we need is one good result and we'll be firing again, but the longer this goes on, the harder it is going to be to turn things around.

SUNDERLAND (probable, 4-4-2): Gordon; Bardsley, Turner, Kilgallon, McCartney; Malbranque, Henderson, Cana, Reid; Jones, Bent.

Source: Northern_Echo