SUNDERLAND fought off competition from a host of top clubs to land Arsenal hitman Nicklas Bendtner, Steve Bruce has revealed.
And the Black Cats’ boss admitted he was a relieved man to sign the striker after the Gunners’ 11th-hour decision to let him leave the Emirates this season opened the way for half-a-dozen different exit options for the Dane.
Bendtner was expected to make his debut for the Black Cats against Chelsea this afternoon in the wake of his deadline-day loan move 10 days ago.
But the 23-year-old, who arrived in Sunderland on a season-long loan, could easily have been lining up elsewhere, with Bruce saying “six to eight” clubs could also have looked to sign him.
Arsenal only made their minds up that Bendtner could leave the day before the transfer window closed and that led to a flurry of inquiries and possible deals.
At one point on transfer deadline day it seemed certain he would be used as a makeweight in the £10million deal that saw Mikel Arteta join the Gunners from Everton.
But the fact that Bendtner has played under the Black Cats’ boss before – spending the 2006-07 season on loan at Birmingham City and helping the Blues win promotion – helped swing it Sunderland’s way.
“We beat off competition from six or eight clubs to sign him once Arsenal decided to let him out on loan – and there were some big clubs in there, too,” said Bruce.
“It was great for us that he wanted to come here and let’s hope he can give us a spark.
“I’m delighted to have him here and hopefully he can hit the ground running.
“As we witnessed in the week, he’s a fantastic talent, a very, very good player. He’s hard work at times – he will be hard work at times – but he’s a big, genuine, honest boy who wants to come and play.
“I hope he can flourish in the surroundings in which he finds himself – and I think he will.
“Everybody knows his ability – and he’s only 23 now.
“He has played 150 times for Arsenal and scored 40 goals, near enough, so there’s no questioning his ability.”
The 23-year-old warmed up for his Sunderland debut by scoring both goals in Denmark’s 2-0 win over Norway in Copenhagen on Tuesday night.
And in interviews afterwards, he put his fine performance down to the excitement he feels over the move to Sunderland and the chance to play regular first-team football in his favourite position of striker.
Bendtner has endured a difficult 12 months at Arsenal, scoring just two Premier League goals in 17 appearances last term, but Bruce is confident he will thrive with regular football on Wearside.
“I had the pleasure of working with Nicklas when he was 18 at Birmingham and when he left there and went back to Arsenal, he played something like 30 games the next season and 30 the season after that and did very well,” observed Bruce.
“He had a bad car crash a year ago and he was fortunate to walk away from that, but since then it hasn’t quite happened for him at Arsenal.
“I think he’s been a bit unlucky at Arsenal because he has been asked to play on the left or on the right to allow them to play Robin van Persie down the middle and Nicklas has found that difficult.
“But just like we did last season with Danny Welbeck and Nedum Onuoha, we hope we can give him a platform here to kick on again.”