SUNDERLAND boss Steve Bruce was tonight hoping to persuade Manchester City striker Benjani Mwaruwari to head for the North-East as cover from leading scorer Darren Bent.

Bruce confirmed the club have opened talks with the 31-year-old Zimbabwean, who has also been linked with West Ham, in an effort to strengthen his striking options.

However, he insisted the move was no indication that he is prepared to let Kenwyne Jones leave the Stadium of Light after weeks of speculation that Liverpool want the Trinidad and Tobago frontman.

The Black Cats began discussions with Benjani's representatives this afternoon, and while they know they face competition for his signature, Bruce is hopeful that they can conclude a deal.

He said: "We have just looked at the situation and we feel we are juggling the balls in the air a little bit and you are just hoping the squad is big enough and strong enough.

"With the injuries we have, we are worried we are a little bit light in that area, so we have decided that we will try to make a move.

"For example, if something happened to Darren Bent, have we got sufficient cover? All those things run through your mind.

"We are just making sure we have got adequate numbers for the next few weeks.

"Whether we can put something together and the player is happy, we are still a bit from, but we have entered into negotiations, anyway."

Meanwhile, Newcastle United are in the race to sign Crystal Palace's highly-rated teenage forward Victor Moses.

The 19-year-old was withdrawn from the Palace squad which played at Newcastle on Wednesday evening by the club's administrators, and the Magpies are understood to have made their move with promotion rivals Nottingham Forest and West Brom also interested and a series of top-flight clubs monitoring the situation.

Boss Chris Hughton said: "It's been documented that we are very interested in signing the lad.

"Most people are also aware of the circumstances with Crystal Palace and the situation they are in, and we hope to make progress on that over the next couple of days.

"It's one we have a very, very keen interest in. He is a player who has an ability to score goals. There is a power and pace, but it is his potential.

"Around what we are trying to do here this season, which is the most important thing, there also has to be an eye on the future, and he is certainly a player of wonderful potential."

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has admitted Adam Johnson is on his radar.

However, Mancini remains guarded about the prospect of recruiting the Middlesbrough midfielder before the transfer window closes on Monday.

Johnson is known to be keen on a move to Eastlands, but it is understood the valuation remains a sticking point.

It is believed City have tabled a £5m bid for the player, who has scored 12 times this term and is out of contract at the end of the season.

Mancini said: "He is a good, young player but we have respect for him and the club. We will see (what happens)."