Tottenham are ready to ignore the “hands off” warning of Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia by offering Darren Bent as bait in their bid to sign striker Kenwyne Jones.
But, desperate to land a new partner for Jermain Defoe, Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp will try to tempt Sbragia into reviewing his stance by offering Bent and £4m in exchange for Jones.
In the summer, former Sunderland boss Roy Keane tried to sign Bent, who was also offered to West Ham as part of a Spurs bid for Craig Bellamy.
But if Sunderland are not interested now in taking Bent, then Tottenham may also be prepared to part with midfielder Jermaine Jenas in an effort to get Jones.
Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia
But the manouvering led to Sbragia taking his gloves off for the first time since taking over, and he did a very passable impression of Keane as he laid into Spurs. Hull did not escape his ire either, after Tigers boss Phil Brown revealed his desire to take midfielder Dean Whitehead. “I’m annoyed that it has come out into the open,” said Sbragia.
“I spoke to Phil Brown on Wednesday and asked him if he wanted me to talk to him before their Newcastle game.
He said, ‘No, I’d prefer to concentrate on the game’
“The next thing he is spelling it out in the press, which I thought was disrespectful.
“He did not mention Whitehead at all. All of a sudden they are all interested in our players, but they haven’t put any offer in. I’m interested in a million players but I haven’t mentioned it, so it’s disrespectful to make it so that the whole world knows.
“I would not do that. I don’t think it’s right. You talk about respect for people and I gave Phil respect by saying I wouldn’t talk to him until after the game. But then Phil leaked it out. It’s up to them, though, that’s their situation. I have enough on my plate.”
As for Spurs, Sbragia is even more angry with the way the north London club have conducted their campaign to lure Jones from Wearside in the open.
“There has been a light enquiry,” said Sbragia.
“He is scoring goals and he has not come to see me and I don’t want him to see me. This just unsettles players. Spurs are after every player in the league and it’s all a bit far-fetched.
“Kenwyne won’t be sold, simple. I speak to my chairman Niall Quinn three times a day and he won’t be sold. It’s a no. And Niall said, ‘No-go, they are wasting their time’.
“We show interest in players but what I don’t do is make it public. No matter what club he is at, he is at their club.
“Tottenham seem to be in for everybody and they make sure it goes in the papers. That’s completely wrong. We can all be desperate but we have to keep our house in order.
I will not sell players to teams around us.
“If it was AC Milan or Real Madrid, I then might have a problem. I would have to think about that, and if someone comes in with something in the summer who knows?
“Spurs do what Spurs do, that’s what they do. It’s not the way to do business.
“It should be in private and I would never leak anything out. It’s not right.
“They unsettled Stewart Downing but he wasn’t unsettled last Saturday. He was excellent against us.
“Kenwyne is not going and I hope Kenwyne follows Stewart’s lead and plays well for the rest of the season.” Sbragia has taken defender Paul McShane back to the Stadium of Light following his loan spell at Hull as he badly needs cover in that department.
He said: “He is not coming to sit on the bench as I need competition. I don’t want slackness and Paul can push them. Paul can play at right-back and centre-back.
“I spoke to him three weeks ago and he was loving it at Hull. He was playing week in, week out, but this is the right time to bring him back.
“As for players leaving, I can’t see the point in selling to a club in the same position as us. I would be better walking.
“I came into the job to keep Sunderland up and if there’s one thing I won’t do, it is to sell my best players.”