John Mensah: will the real Steve Bruce please stand up?

In all the current transfer talk, one subject occupies Colin Randall‘s attention more than most: the future of a player who excelled in South Africa, just as he did – when fit – for Sunderland last season. The signals from the Stadium of Light are mixed …

Steve Bruce was in understandably dismissive mood when presented with a list of the players he is allegedly trying to sign.

From the Sunderland Echo, we learn that he described talk of Sunderland bids for Ezequiel Lavazzi, Humberto Suazo, Nelson Valdez and John Utaka as anything from “rubbish” to “absolute rubbish”, and said he had no idea where rumours about an attempt to bring Michael Carrick to the SoL had come from.

Bruce pointed out that of 55 names linked with Sunderland in the past seven weeks, two had been signed, with a third on the way.

“We’ve signed Mignolet and we’ve signed Riveros, the Argentinian boy Marcos Angeleri – we’re just waiting for a passport so we’re hoping to get that one through – and I would envisage one or two more new faces.”

But it was his next comment that had me worried: “If you look at where we were last season compared to now, we have lost Alan Hutton, John Mensah and the captain Lorik Cana, so we still need to add a few to make an impact on the first team.”

Now I knew we’d lost Cana, and I knew Tottenham’s absurd valuation made Hutton’s return unlikely. But while I also knew there was uncertainty about Mensah, that word “lost”, unless a slip of the tongue, suggests finality

Yet only the other day, Bruce was saying he “would love to bring him back”, adding: “I will see what develops and see if Lyon want to play ball in that respect.”

Which is closer to the truth? Maybe the boss is simply playing his cards close to his chest; that would be an eminently sensible approach at a time of wild speculation and, possibly, delicate negotiation. But Sunderland fans are entitled to be alarmed at the possibility that we may be willing to let one of the most convincing defenders we’ve had in years, an absolute star of the World Cup with Ghana, slip through our hands.

I’d take a sometimes-injured Mensah 100 times before I’d take any number of other fully fit players, in all kinds of positions, with whom we have – even if falsely – been linked. OK, never to be trusted with a penalty, but we can live with that.

A quick trawl through the French press – Mensah has returned to his club Lyon while his future is sorted out – reveals nothing new, just a repetition of the reported interest from Hamburg.

But others may be sniffing around, too.

At the Arsenal pages of the Bleacher Report website, I came across this, from a discussion by Callum D’Souza on players the Gunners might usefully consider buying:

Ghana enjoyed an impressive campaign in which they advanced to the quarterfinals. At the heart of their defence was captain John Mensah who enjoyed a solid tournament. The 28-year-old was strong in the air as well on ground and marshalled his troops greatly.

The Lyon man recently completed a loan spell at Sunderland in which he was a solid contributor proving he is capable of performing in the toughest league. A decision is yet to be fully made on his future but he is currently back with Lyon. Mensah would be a great option for the Arsenal defence adding extra power, experience, and a cool head.

Am I alone in hoping that the minds of Bruce and Niall Quinn are concentrated by the growing risk that Mensah will indeed be “lost” to us? A Premier-class young striker may be the manager’s first priority, but failure to bring the Ghanaian back to Wearside would be a significant setback.

* For an exemplary analysis of Mensah’s loan period at Sunderland, read Jeremy Robson’s contribution to our end-of-season reviews, Passing the Mensah test.

5 thoughts on “John Mensah: will the real Steve Bruce please stand up?”

  1. Jabulani ball. Very interesting explanation of it all. Not that it was needed if you’ve ever belted one of these things towards a goal. Had a fun kick around the other week and it just flew off my left foot and kept on sailing. You would think that I had Bobby Charlton’s left foot instead of my own. No doubt in my mind that this ball had a detrimental effect on the games in the World Cup. The most peculiar thing about it is that it just feels like a normal ball until you belt it and then it starts to behave most peculiarly. That’s what caused the problem.

  2. JM might be an expensive vehicle subject to a breakdown. However I would rather have him parked on my drive, given a Sunday morning polish every other week in the knowledge that when he gets on the road is so much more than the Lada and NSU Prinz that are Kilgallon and Nosworthy or even the Vauxhall Vectra that is Michael Turner. The Rolls Royce Silver shadow of Paulo Da Silva seems to be considered inappropriate for the fast and pot holed highway of the Premier League and remains in an air conditioned and centrally heated garage and is only brought out for the concourse of vintage shows (ie World Cups) and is not to be used in any circumstances for the school run or trip to the shops (English League games).

  3. Mensah is a sentimental favourite, no doubt about that, but he raises too many question marks for my liking. It’s like buying an expensive, high-performance car that you’re pretty sure will eventually break down and be off the road for an indeterminate time. You hope that it’ll be later, rather than sooner, and meanwhile you’ll wring as much out of it as possible. Part of me would love to see Mensah back playing for Sunderland but the other part is really uneasy about signing another defender with fitness problems. At best it’s a crap-shoot with the potential for a really bad outcome.

  4. Bruce was quoted the other day as saying that he didn’t feel that he could commit the club’s money to a player with John’s questionable level of fitness etc. On the face of it that seems a reasonable position to take given the stop start nature of his appearances. He went on to talk about the best interests of the club etc which is all well and good. Cast that against the fact that against the results obtained when JM played as opposed to when he didn’t and he should cast caution to the wind, strike the best deal he can get from Lyon and be done with it. The lad wants to come and we need him. I’d rather have ten minutes with John on the field than 90 minutes with any of the other contenders.

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