SUNDERLAND'S Kenwyne Jones yesterday responded to his former manager Harry Redknapp's recent comments regarding his desire to make it as a top-class striker.
Redknapp admitted he questioned whether his former charge at Southampton had the commitment and determination to become a successful Premier League star when he was Jones' manager.
The former Saints boss was so convinced his young striker would not cut the mustard that he sent him out on loan to Stoke City and Sheffield Wednesday during Redknapp's year-long sojourn at St Mary's between December 2004 and December 2005.
Given that assessment, it was unsurprising eyebrows were raised when Sunderland paid £6m for the Trinidad and Tobago international.
But Jones has more than justified his price tag and surprised more than just his former boss with how well he has adapted to the Premier League.
"If I'm truthful to myself I knew I had the desire," said Jones. "I think I showed it when I went out on loan to different clubs.
"It's all in the past now and I think you can see that desire when I play every week so it's not a question to be asked."
The 23-year-old's form has been so impressive since he swapped life on the south coast for the North-East that his boss Roy Keane has consequently claimed his new recruit is worth £40m, and added he is arguably the best striker in the Premier League.
Jones was humbled by his manager's appraisal and says that while he was flattered by the compliment he's determined to keep his feet firmly on the ground.
Jones was also magnanimous enough to recognise that some of his Premier League contemporaries may be more deserving of the top flight's best striker tag.
"I was glad to hear he has that much confidence in me, the way he expresses himself is his own way," said Jones, who is looking to add to his five goals this term at Anfield today. "I still have a long way to go.
"It's a huge compliment from him, as new as I am to the game it's not something I take to my head because you might lose yourself, but it's nice.
"I've had a bit of stick (from my team-mates) for that. If he says something like that about you, you might not have to live up to that, but you have to put in performances to help you to escape the bollockings.
"The best in the league is (Emmanuel) Adebayor right now, he's the top of the goal charts. Every player has their attributes; I don't think Liverpool would have bought (Fernando) Torres if he didn't have something about him.
"At the moment he's (Adebayor) in the form right now, we're not talking about (Cristiano) Ronaldo, he's a winger. Adebayor is the in-form striker at the moment and he has the most goals so he's the top man, there's no arguments about that."