Roy Keane is backing Kenwyne Jones to improve on last season’s goal haul — despite the Trinidad & Tobago hitman missing the first two months of the season through injury.
And to have last season’s leading scorer back on the field would give Sunderland’s season a huge boost.
Jones netted seven goals in his debut season on Wearside — but Keane is convinced that the arrival of a clutch of creative players, such as Steed Malbranque and El-Hadji Diouf over the summer, will increase his goals-to-games ratio.
“It was Kenwyne’s first year in the Premiership and I was happy enough with the seven goals he got,” said Keane.
“I think he’ll improve on that return this year because of the way we’ve changed the team.
“Kenwyne’s strength is attacking crosses and last season we didn’t get enough balls into the box. He is a big player for us and to have him back would be a big boost.
“It’s unfortunate that he has been injured but there is light at the end of the tunnel in that he is back out on the training pitch and he is only a couple of weeks away from full training.
Jones’ impending return is also good news for Sunderland’s other strikers, according to Keane.
“Aside from his goals, the number of assists he contributed last season was also a big plus,” he added. “I think our other strikers will see the benefits of having Kenwyne back — Michael Chopra, Djibril Cisse, Daryl Murphy and Dave Healy.
“Kenwyne is a handful for any defender. I know John Terry said last year when we played against Chelsea that Kenwyne was the toughest centre-forward he had come up against.
“I know exactly what he means!”
Jones, who turns 24 today, picked up the injury while playing for T&T in a friendly against England during the close-season, with a collision between the striker and England goalkeeper David James doing the damage.
Keane said: “I didn’t see the injury at the time because I was in New Zealand but someone texted me pretty soon afterwards.
“I spoke to our doctor a few days later and he told me the worst-case scenario but fortunately it ended up being not quite as bad as that.
“He needed an operation but thankfully it wasn’t his cruciate ligament.
“I didn’t think Kenwyne would be playing because he had broken his wrist in the final game of the season and it was only a friendly against England.
“It was disappointing that it happened in that respect. But players get injured and that’s part of football. It’s a physical game.
“No matter what people say, when you suffer an injury like this it is a test of your mentality and Kenwyne has come through with flying colours.
“After this injury, hopefully he’ll come back nice and refreshed.”