Benjani can restore Pompey’s twin strikeforce

Benjani, right, is back at Pompey
Benjani, right, is back at Pompey
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Steve Cotterill believes the arrival of Benjani Mwaruwari can finally supply Pompey with a twin strikeforce.

But the Blues boss has warned tonight’s Reading clash may be too soon to unleash him.

Benjani trained with his new team-mates for the first time yesterday after signing on Saturday.

The return of the cult figure has unsurprisingly received a tremendous welcome from the Fratton faithful.

For Cotterill, the 33-year-old represents a short-term answer to his squad problems.

Crucially, it will also give the Blues boss the option of reverting to a 4-4-2 system.

The lack of striking options, coupled with Kanu and Dave Kitson not forming a natural partnership, has resulted in Pompey fielding a lone striker for long periods during Cotterill’s tenure.

Now Benjani can potentially be matched up with either.

Firstly he has to prove he is ready, having not had a full pre-season under his belt.

And Cotterill is unsure whether he will feature in tonight’s Fratton Park encounter.

He said: ‘I’m not sure if Benji is ready to play tonight.

‘Regardless, we’ve not had the option of naming two strikers in a team for a long time.

‘We have that option now, potentially, depending on Benji.

‘When we had John Utaka here, David Nugent was alongside Kitson.

‘Then when he went we had to put Nuge out on the left instead.

‘We’ve definitely wanted the option of strikers but we’ve never really had it.

‘Sometimes it can suit you playing 4-4-2 and sometimes it can’t.

‘King (Kanu) and Kitson have been our only options.

‘Probably what we have done is play King off Kitson a little bit more because that is naturally what game he plays.

‘The problem is sometimes they come into each others’ spaces.

‘It isn’t something we don’t do or haven’t done but sometimes you need one of them to be really, really strong and keep the ball up top to bring the rest of the team up.

‘There is an argument for that type of centre forward.

‘But there is an argument for your other type with pace who is going to stretch things.’

Benjani has featured in just 60 matches since leaving Fratton Park three-and-a-half years ago.

Injury problems and competition for places restricted his involvement at Manchester City, Sunderland and Blackburn.

And Cotterill is keen not to overhype the return of the Fratton hero.

He added: ‘What I don’t want is to put on a big fanfare and then Benji not being up to speed and able to get where everybody wants him to be or remembers him being.

‘In training he did some good things I wasn’t expecting but then I didn’t see him running around all over the pitch.

‘But it was his first training session with the lads.

‘It will take time.’