SUNDERLAND are poised to complete the signing of Manchester City striker Benjani Mwaruwari, but manager Steve Bruce insists the Zimbabwean is not a replacement for Kenwyne Jones.

The Black Cats had a bid of around £1.5m accepted for Benjani, who is out of contract at the end of the current campaign, and immediately arranged a meeting with the striker and his representatives.

Those talks have gone well, but Blackburn Rovers and West Ham have also been given permission to speak to the player, and Sunderland officials are hoping to hold further discussions over the next 24 hours.

Having made just six senior appearances for Manchester City this season, Benjani is keen to kick-start his career at the Stadium of Light and, provided personal terms can be agreed, the 31-year-old should be confirmed as a Sunderland player over the weekend.

“We are currently having talks,” confirmed Bruce. “We have entered negotiations and are trying to make a move.

There were no problems agreeing anything with Manchester City and it would be for a permanent transfer.

“We haven’t got there yet though, and the player has been offered deals elsewhere so we will have to match them. But we hope something can be done.

“It wasn’t a position I was looking at but you get to a stage, especially with what has happened to us, where you do worry what would happen if something was to happen to (Darren) Bent. That would be a real concern for us, and it would mean we would need adequate cover. Benjani would bring us that firepower that only a striker can give you.”

Understandably, Benjani’s impending arrival has been interpreted as evidence of Bruce’s continued willingness to listen to offers for Jones.

The striker, who has been the subject of sustained interest from Liverpool this month, was goaded by a section of his own fans as Sunderland lost at Everton this week, but while this month’s transfer saga has made Bruce reassess his attacking options, he insists that his pursuit of Benjani has nothing to do with what might happen to Jones.

“There’s no connection between the two things at all,”

said Bruce. “And I can honestly say that we’ve had no offers for any of our players apart from a couple of loan inquiries about a couple of other lads.

“I honestly don’t think Kenwyne will go anywhere, but that whole situation has made me think about the wider striker situation at the club.”

As well as attempting to sign Benjani, Bruce is also determined to land at least one full-back in the final three days of the transfer window.

Having been priced out of a move for Hamburg’s Guy Demel, and with Habib Beye’s wage demands proving a difficult obstacle to overcome, Rennes defender Rod Fanni has emerged as Bruce’s preferred choice of right-back.

He is also in the market for a left-back, but for the second transfer window in a row, his pursuit of Wigan’s Maynor Figueroa has proved unsuccessful.

Latics boss Roberto Martinez expressed his unhappiness at Bruce’s courting of the Honduras international yesterday morning, and while the Black Cats boss insists he has done nothing wrong, his interest in Figueroa has once again been shelved.

The Sunderland boss has also revealed that he is willing to allow Nyron Nosworthy to leave Wearside on loan.

“We’ve had a couple of offers for Nyron to go out on loan in the last 24 hours,” he said. “I’ve put it to the player that it’s really his choice.”

Lee Cattermole is unlikely to be involved against the Potters, but his leg injury is not as serious as first feared, and he could be fit to face former club, Wigan, next weekend.