Blink And You'd Miss Him: Benjani

Ben Hoskins

You may remember an occasional feature we used to run on these pages dedicated to Sunderland Cult Heroes of past and present, well, we quite simply ran out of candidates to profile. So, instead we’re resurrecting the review, with a little twist and focusing on the illustrious names that have graced the club over the years and, well, did nowt. To kick proceedings off… Benjani.

Benjani Mwaruwari, or Benjani as he was known to his mates, was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in 1978 and would go on to make thirty-one appearances for his National team during his career, a career which is still going "strong" by the way as the forward currently plies his trade for South African Premier Soccer League outfit, Bidvest Wits.

Benjani's first big break came at the expense of a man who would go on to have a little bit more of an impact during a spell on Wearside, Djibril Cisse, as Benjani capitalised on an injury sustained by the Frenchman whilst playing for Auxerre and would go on to become the top scorer in Ligue 1 that term.

Based on this form Harry Redknapp saw fit to splash out just over £4m for Benjani in January of 2006 for Portsmouth, supposedly on the recommendation of Arsene Wenger. One can only presume this was a massive troll on the part of the Professor.

Benjani's spell on the South coast got off to a flyer with the striker failing to hit the back of the net in his first fourteen games for ‘Arry's side, yet reportedly garnered somewhat of a cult status among the Pompey faithful. Never let it be said that Portsmouth fans don't have a sense of humour.

To give Benjani his due, he would put together an impressive run of goalscoring form in the first half of the 2007/08 season which was enough to catch Sven-Goran Eriksson's wandering eye, however the forward somehow conspired to miss two successive flights to Manchester to complete his move before the transfer deadline passed with Benjani somehow managing to fall asleep at the airport...

The transfer was finally completed a few days later... Nothing dodgy about that at all... something which would become a feature of transfer involving the Zimbabwean.

The January of 2010 would see Benjani's odyssey finally find the forward on Wearside having become surplus to requirements at Manchester City under the stewardship of Roberto Mancini.

Benjani's loan move to the Stadium of Light was not confirmed until a day after the closure of the January transfer window with problems with the club's "communications network" blamed. Unfortunately for all concerned someone presumably plugged the fax machine back in and Steve Bruce had his man.

"He's a player I have admired for a long time and I think he's going to be an excellent addition to the squad" gushed Bruce while Wearside struggled to even register an ounce of interest.

Benjani's stint on Wearside lasted an altogether forgettable three months, twelve long weeks where Brucey's man failed to find the back of the net or make any kind of impact whatsoever.

"In the end, he didn't play many games" said Bruce upon Benjani's departure, "but the extra competition brought the best out of the other lads" Quite simply yet another perfect example of "Brucey logic" as following his men slumped from 10th on Christmas Day to 13th by May with a dismal Winter period proving costly. But, you know, Benjani brought the best out of the lads during this time...

Thankfully Benjani's deal at the Stadium of Light was a pay-as-you-play kind of affair, so his single start in a red and white shirt and seven substitute appearances - a grand total of just 121 minutes - weren't too costly, which is just as well given his reported £50,000 wages... canny gig if you can get it.

Ultimately Benjani would end up at Blackburn Rovers for the 2010/11 campaign before a brief return to Portsmouth the following year and a subsequent move to the fantastically named Chippa United based in Cape Town.

So there you have it, Benjani, blink and you may have missed him, I know I had almost completely forgotten about his Sunderland spell.

Feel free to let us know about your favourite Benjani moment in the comments section below!

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