Black Cats reluctant to make African signings

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce will look to avoid African signings this close season.Bruce fears next season’s African Cup of Nations could cause serious problems with too many Africans on the Black Cats’ books.

“When you are choosing players, you never consider their nationality, only the question of whether they’re good enough and that’s still the case with us,” Bruce told The Sunderland Echo.

“But certainly, as things stand, we would be reluctant to sign players from African nations because looking ahead to next season, it would be a real worry.”

“The competition also comes at a time – end of January, beginning of February – where it’s a really testing time for your squad anyway.”

“If we had the same injury crisis next year as this year and then lost half-a-dozen players to Africa for three weeks, we really would be goosed.”

“I’m aware of the situation and it’s something we’ve addressed – you don’t want to lose a load of players at one fell swoop.”

Had the bi-annual African Nations Cup been held last season, half of Bruce’s squad would have been eligible to play.

Sunderland had three Ghana internationals at the club in skipper John Mensah, Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari.

Ahmed Elmohamady is a regular for Egypt and as well as Benin international Stephane Sessegnon, Sunderland had full-back Nedum Onuoha who could have been called up for Nigeria.

So potentially, Sunderland could have lost six first-team players at a time when their squad had the longest injury list in the division.

The issue is much less of a problem as things stand, with Mensah, Muntari and Onuoha having left the Stadium of Light at the end of last season.

And of the players who remain, only Gyan seems certain to have to miss a chunk of next season, with the tournament starting on January 21 and concluding on February 12.

Ghana are favourites from their group and should qualify, in which case Gyan is likely to miss a month of the Black Cats’ campaign.

But the good news, for Bruce at least, is that Sessegnon’s Benin are unlikely to qualify and holders Egypt have been surprise flops in the preliminary round, with the champions for the last three tournaments also unlikely to reach the finals.