ONLY a brave or a foolish man would turn down a request from Roy Keane. And Kenwyne Jones, who proved his general fitness in Wednesday’s reserve team fixture at a packed Eppleton CW ground, is ready to do his manager’s bidding if selected for tomorrow’s derby with Newcastle.
“If he thinks I could fit in and do a job, then great. But until that happens, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Out of action since June, the Sunderland marksman now looks in good physical shape but lacks match fitness.
‘Tiredness’ was his only negative reaction to 61 minutes of midweek action.
Keane is unlikely to rush the striker back into Premier League action, despite tomorrow’s match being the club’s biggest fixture of the season.
But the encouraging sign for the watching Sunderland manager was that on Wednesday night, Jones’ performance improved as the game progressed.
If Keane does select the Trinidad and Tobago international to face their fiercest rivals it will be because, fully fit or not, Jones remains the Wearsiders’ most naturally talented target man.
Asked to give a percentage rating for his current fitness, the 24-year-old said: “Physically, I’m fine but in terms of match sharpness, I’m going to put a zero on it. That way, I can build up to 100 per cent.
“You’ve got to realise I have been out for a long time and this is my first 60 minutes.
You can’t expect everything to fall into place just like that.
And it’s only three weeks since I started training fully.
“I felt OK for that 60 minutes but we will see what happens,” he said.
During his five-month absence, the club have made a significant investment in attacking talent with Sunderland fans relishing the prospect of a Jones-Djibril Cisse partnership.
“Cisse is a great signing but he’s not the only really good signing this year. Everyone who has come in adds something different and their own brand to the squad.
“You can see from the performances at the start of the season that we are much different from last season. You know you can only smile and be happy about that because Sunderland Football Club is really going places,” said Jones.
“It excites me when I watch the team from the sidelines.
It’s almost like a new team with so many players coming in. It can only make the club stronger and it’s nice to be coming back at a time when there’s such a good atmosphere and the confidence is high.
“There is fresh expectation that the club is healthy and going to do well. All I can do is work hard enough to add to that.”
The official attendance for this week’s reserve fixture was 2,370, although stewards suggested it was nearer the 4,000 mark. And Jones was moved by the turnout generated by his return.
“It’s incredible having that kind of support,’’ he admitted.
“It shows the family feeling going on at the club. It’s nice to see so many people coming out on a cold night.
“It’s a big week for me but an even bigger one for Sunderland and that has to be the focus.
“Hopefully, we can come out on top, get the three points and restore some pride to Sunderland Football Club.
“I’m really hopeful I can score plenty of goals in the months ahead.
“But you never know what will happen or how the game is going to run.
“I am really confident that when I am back to full fitness, whatever that is, I will be able to score more goals than I did last year.”