Date: 10th September 2006 at 2:55pm
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Pompey striker Benjani has come in for special praise from Manager Harry Redknapp… and why not he’s a quality striker who is finally gaining the recognition he deserves.

Redknapp would say:

“He didn’t score many last season but his work-rate and general play was excellent. That is what he gives to a side and if he keeps scoring goals as well that’s great.”

Benjani, Pompey’s record signing (although all being well this is likely to eventually become Manuel Fernandes) costing £4.1 million from French side Auxerre in January would only manage one goal in sixteen outings at the tail end of last season and came in for more than his share of unwelcome criticism in my opinion. He worked tirelessly, and let’s not forget he was carrying an injury, which surgery over the summer has cleared up.

His superb winner in the clash with Wigan, his second goal in as many games, and second in four games this season, brought him the praise not only from his manager but also members of the media. A BBC Radio Five commentator said he was “finally starting to look like a Premiership player.” A reporter on the BBC’s Match of the Day would echo similar thoughts, and SKY Sports, who in particular gave him poor reviews and press last season, often seeing him rated as low as 4 out of 10, and regularly slated by their team of “expert” pundits are now hailing him!

It is true to say that Benji was brought to Pompey with the expectation from the crowd that he would score goals, so despite his work rate some were maybe judging him on the fact he wasn’t scoring? Redknapp himself has said his work rate and general play are what he brings the side, so goals, which will now hopefully flow, are an added bonus (so long as others keep scoring also!)

The 28-year-old Zimbabwean International has never been prolific really, these stats below prove testament to this.

2001-2002: Jomo Cosmos (South Africa) – 20 in 44 games is decent strike rate, but no disrespect to South African football it is not the greatest level of football in the world.

2001-2002: Grasshoppers (loan) – 1 in 27 games, from a strike point of view a poor return, although I don`t know how he actually performed?

2002-2006: Auxerre – 20 in 84 games, an average of one in four isn`t the worse really is it.

2006 – Present (10/09/06): – Pompey 3 in 20 games, one in almost seven games doesn’t look good on paper but his performances have been worth far more.

A move to a new country can’t have been easy for him last season, he was said to spend most of his time alone in his room. Also, as mentioned was carrying an injury, nonetheless he played his part in keeping us up. Two goals in four games this term makes far better reading, plus his performances are top class.

I, along with another 49% of Vital Pompey fans in a poll conducted before the season started felt that Benji would score at least 10-15 goals (in all competitions) this season so he is on his way. The 8% of you who felt he would score less than 5 goals must now be worrying…

Benji almost always plays the game with a smile, and despite never meeting him I image him to be one of the nicest people you could wish to meet, with him said to be just that. His ultimate dream, to see Zimbabwe qualify for a major football finals has led to him investing his own hard earned money into the development of the junior game in his native Zimbabwe. He also provided funding for the national side during a stay in France in preparation to the 2006 African Cup of Nations.

God bless you Benjani Mwaruwari (Benji to his friends!)