Kenwyne Jones had spent the previous season out on loan at Sheffield Wednesday and Stoke City, who were both outside the Premier League — and, at Wednesday in particular, he had looked terrific.
He had only played a handful of matches for us and hadn’t been too clever but we thought perhaps this level would suit him.
We got our first shock in pre-season training when we did a bleep test and Kenwyne was beaten by my assistant Kevin Bond.
Bleep tests are gruelling but they are the best measurement of fitness. A player has to run between two points in a certain time — indicated by a bleep noise — speeding up as he gets more exhausted.
It allows coaches to assess maximum oxygen intake. Kevin would have turned 50 the year he outran Kenwyne.
He just pulled up, like a tired old racehorse. ‘Keep going, Kenwyne, what have you stopped for?’ I shouted.
‘I’m tired, man,’ he said. ‘I know, Kenwyne,’ I replied. ‘That’s the point of it. We have to find out how fit you are when you are tired.’
But there was no getting him going again. He’d just had enough.
Later that summer we were playing Bournemouth in a pre-season friendly and he asked to come off.
‘What’s the problem, Kenwyne?’ I said. ‘It’s too hot,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘Kenwyne,’ I reminded him, as politely as I could in front of several thousand people. ‘You’re from Trinidad. This isn’t even a warm day for you.’
He had all the tools — a great spring, good pace and power in the air — but he was laid-back to the point of semi-consciousness.
He just looked like he would rather be on a beach somewhere.