Sunderland legend Gary Bennett on January transfer priorities, owner Ellis Short and Jack Rodwell’s future

Sunderland legend Gary Bennett.
Sunderland legend Gary Bennett.
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Gary Bennett believes Sunderland need to sign two strikers this month to help give Chris Coleman’s struggling side a big lift.

Sunderland prop up the Championship table ahead of tomorrow’s lunchtime kick-off at Cardiff City, with Coleman targeting the loan market for fresh blood.

Sunderland manager Chris Coleman.

Sunderland manager Chris Coleman.

We sat down with club legend and former skipper Bennett – who made more than 350 Sunderland appearances – to discuss the January transfer window, Coleman’s impact, owner Ellis Short plus Jack Rodwell’s future.

On Sunderland’s January transfer plans:

Bennett said: “This season has not been enjoyable, watching Sunderland lose week in, week out and the performances too.

“You hope that the manager will be able to get the three or four more bodies that he wants to give everyone a big lift. You want not one but two strikers.

“We are desperate for another creative midfielder too, somebody who can get on the ball, pull the strings and make things happen.

“Elsewhere, Darron Gibson’s injury has been a blow, his range of passing was good. We were just starting to see it and that has left a big hole in the team.”

Coleman will be relying on free agents and loan signings this month unless the club can cash in on saleable assets, the likes of Lamine Kone and Didier Ndong.

Bennett added: “What do you call a decent price for Kone or an Ndong? It’s what teams are willing to offer. We are not in a position to say no.

“We need to offload, cut the wage bill down. What price would you take for them? That is the question.”

On new signing Jake Clarke-Salter and the characters needed:

Coleman made his first January signing this week, with 20-year-old centre back Jake Clarke-Salter arriving on a loan deal until the end of the season.

Bennett added: “I don’t know much about him but from what I’ve heard he is a promising centre-back and one who is looking forward to the challenge.

“He is only 20 and I don’t want to put too much pressure on him.”

Bennett added: “It’s okay saying we need experience but Chris Coleman has hit the nail on the head regards if you get experience, you want players who want to come and play for the club.

“Not just players who come here for the journey, to see out the season. You want players who have the character and can make the difference.

“Have we got the character, strength and ability to get out of this position – rock bottom of the Championship? I certainly hope so. We have dropped a long way.”

On Sunderland loan target, Liverpool ace Ben Woodburn:

“You have to remember he has very good players around him, at Liverpool and Wales,” said Bennett. “People’s expectations if he came would be to perform the way he has been there.

“If you don’t have the players or tools around you to do that, then it is harder. You have to look at the circumstances he would be coming into.”

On Chris Coleman’s impact since taking charge:

“I think he has been excellent. First of all he made a commitment to the club, for him it was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down and he has said everything about Sunderland being a big club.

“What he is trying to do is get them organised, get the best out of them. The injuries haven’t helped. You listen to him and he tells you exactly how it is.”

On owner Ellis Short and who is to blame for Sunderland’s plight:

Bennett said: “Where do you point the finger? At Ellis Short? At the previous managers? The chief executive?

“People keep saying Short needs to release money but you would have to say over his time in charge he has spent money but it has been badly spent, badly managed. Whose fault is that?”

He added: “Say he backs Chris Coleman, how much money would he need? It is not Ellis Short’s fault for the players that come in, he doesn’t identify the players.

“Say he gives £50million to Chris Coleman, he brings players in and they don’t perform – whose fault is it? It’s not Ellis Short’s fault.

“Look at James Vaughan, it isn’t Ellis Short’s fault he doesn’t put the ball in the back of the net.”

On Jack Rodwell’s Sunderland future:

The 26-year-old has been missing with a hamstring injury. Coleman has spoken openly about Rodwell saying it was up to the former Everton and Man City midfielder to prove he has the appetite for the Championship relegation battle.

Bennett said: “He has a problem in stringing four or five games together, when was the last time he played half a dozen game in a row?

“I think that is something which mentally plays on his mind. If he plays one game, we are not expecting him to play another after that.”

On Sunderland’s tactics:

Bennett added: “You are looking for players who can play under pressure, every game will be played under pressure.

“Who can roll their sleeves up and handle it? You don’t mind getting beat, it is how you get beat. At least go down fighting.

“We might have to gamble and play with two strikers.

“With one striker, we don’t get enough people in the box, we don’t have the players in midfield willing to make that run into the box to support the striker.”

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