Benni McCarthy’s canny knack of scoring goals may have secured a loan move to Championship leaders Queens Park Rangers this week.
The 33-year-old, frustrated at current club West Ham where Avram Grant refuses to even grant him a place on the bench, was allowed to play in a reserve friendly for QPR against Spurs on Tuesday.
And South Africa’s all-time top-scorer promptly scored despite a heavy 9-2 defeat against a tough Spurs second string side that included Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane, England centre-back Jonathan Woodgate and young Jamie O’Hara.
Ironically, cash-rich West London outfit QPR – backed by steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and Formula One moguls Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briattore – could replace EastEnd strugglers West Ham in the Premier League in May.
McCarthy’s agent Rob Moore is believed to be “in talks” with QPR boss Neil Warnock. The deal appears to involve McCarthy moving on loan, with QPR paying most of his £50,000-a-week salary until May.
If he scores the goals to help QPR gain promotion back to the top flight for the first time since 1996, he will be signed on a full-term basis.
Warnock, a shrewd, experienced boss who gave up his day job as a chiropodist when he took non-League minnows Scarborough into the Football League way back in 1986, is urgently seeking a goal-getter for the second half of the season, having lost two strikers - Jamie Mackie and Patrick Agyemangboth – with broken legs before the New Year.
McCarthy was signed from Blackburn Rovers by Gian Franco Zola for £2.5m last January but a knee injury suffered on his debut wrecked his Upton Park career. By the time he had battled back to fitness, he had been fined for putting on weight by new club owner David Sullivan, missed the World Cup in his own country, and dour Israeli Grant had replaced the flamboyant Zola.
Despite assurances from his agent Moore that the Capetonian “has been at the right weight since October”, Grant rarely even gives McCarthy a glimpse of the bench. If he leaves this week, he will go without a single goal for West Ham’s first team. In a year, he has made just 13 appearances for West Ham, with 10 of those as a substitute.
Meanwhile Steven Pienaar’s transfer to Tottenham, first predicted by this writer three months ago, was confirmed on the club’s official website yesterday.
Pienaar, who will wear the No40 shirt at Spurs when Spurs play Newcastle on Saturday, twittered yesterday: “Saying final goodbyes at Everton tomorrow. It’s not easy after many great years. Thanks to all the fans, you have been brilliant.”
Pienaar said of his first appearance at Tottenham’s Chigwell training facility yesterday: “Friendly reception from players yesterday. Michael Dawson first to say hello then Rafa (van der Vaart, his former team-mate at Ajax in Amsterdam). Great to team up with him, he's been great this season.”