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Gyan's Bit-part Role at Sunderland Gives Growing Cause for Concern

Fri, 22 Oct 2010 Source: Jason Mellor

Asamoah Gyan must have arrived at Sunderland with a fitness level somewhere between that of 22-stone Bill Werbeniuk and the equally rotund Jocky Wilson in their 1980s heyday. That's the only conclusion you can possibly draw given sightings of the club record signing have been almost as rare as goals for Steve Bruce's side so far this season.

A modest haul of seven in their eight Premier League games leaves them in the bottom half despite losing only once. Their problem has been putting teams away, a trait that has forced them to share the spoils six times already.

Back in the era when Werbeniuk wielded a snooker cue and a pint glass with equal aplomb, and Wilson darted from double top to double brandy, draws were a far more valuable commodity, there being just two points for a win of course. Since victories started being rewarded with three points almost 30 years ago, you're better off winning one, losing one than continually drawing.

Which is, you would have thought, where Gyan comes in. Bruce acknowledged the Ghanaian's lack of match fitness after paying well over the odds courtesy of a couple of goals in the World Cup, a staggering £13.4m, at the start of September. Fair enough, give him a couple of weeks and he'll be raring to go, so we thought. In true stereotypical Northerner style, Bruce also muttered something about not paying all that money to have the 24-year-old sat warming the bench. Nothing too surprising there.

The thing is, by and large, that's what he's done. Some seven weeks into his Sunderland career, and Gyan is yet to make a Premier League start. That's seven weeks, with one start, in the Carling Cup against West Ham, when he scored his second goal for the club. Meanwhile, Bruce's side fritter away valuable points which are likely to cost them dear in their efforts to clinch a top 10 finish for the first time in a decade.

Decent arguments can be made for Sunderland having deserved to beat Birmingham City, Liverpool and Manchester United this season, only having to settle for draws each time. That's six points which would see them sit third right now. While Gyan has made his glacially-paced return to fitness - a post-World Cup break followed by a hiatus in finding a new club the cause for the regression in his conditioning, apparently - Sunderland continue to overly rely on Darren Bent for their goals.

As ever, Bent obliges, with five of those seven Premier League goals so far. Gyan, with a debut goal at Wigan, is the only other Sunderland player to score in the league this season. The seventh came from the hapless Birmingham skipper Stephen Carr. So that's a zero return from the rest of the side. Shocking. Truly shocking.

Danny Welbeck said: "We have to get better showing a killer instinct in front of goal. We can't keep relying on Darren to score goals. Everyone has got to chip in. I think it will click soon and when it does we'll start getting a few goals." Welbeck's goal tally on loan from Manchester United: 0.

The forward's sentiment is echoed by Bruce, but actions spoke louder than words at Blackburn on Monday night when, with Bent clearly in need of being given more time to recover from a groin problem sustained on international duty, he still asked the 26-year-old to play as a lone forward, while Gyan remained on the bench.

There were injury concerns over Gyan following his return from playing for Ghana, but if he was fit enough for the bench, then this was a perfect opportunity to get the record signing to start earning his corn. It's not as though you need to be looking for an excuse to play the man you've shelled out so much for in any case, is it? For once, Bent had a stinker, fluffed a couple of chances and more points were chucked down the swanny.

Admittedly, Gyan wasn't much better when he ended his latest spell of bench warming with a late appearance at Ewood Park, but the longer it goes on without him being given an opportunity to shine, the more thoughts turn towards imagining Bruce, to his horror having seen Gyan close up in training, not actually being as impressed by his newest import as he thought he might.

Of course, Sunderland supporters will dismiss that as far fetched, and we hope it is. But a timeframe approaching two months to get up to speed is ridiculous, and the worry that it's more than a lack of fitness that's keeping Gyan out will only grow while he continues to make more cameos than Royal Doulton.

Source: Jason Mellor