Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, has cast doubt on whether Birmingham City or Stoke City could afford to buy Kenwyne Jones this month, but has admitted that the Trinidad and Tobago striker is testing his managerial prowess.
Bruce reiterated yesterday that he is seeking to build a team rather than dismantle it, but he conceded for the first time that selling Jones is not beyond the realms of possibility. Birmingham, Stoke and Aston Villa have all been credited with an interest in the 25-year-old.
“Everybody’s got their price in football, whether you’re Steven Gerrard or Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Bruce. “The one thing I want to do is try and build a squad. If something out there blows our brains ... but with no disrespect to Stoke or Birmingham, can they afford him (Jones)? It’s not just the transfer fee but wages, all the rest of it. I can’t see it.”
Two years ago, Roy Keane, then Sunderland’s manager, rated Jones as “worth £40m”. “On his day I think you can look at Kenwyne and say he’s worth £40m, then on another day you’ll think, ‘Come on you’,” Bruce said. “That’s Kenwyne. I can understand what Roy was saying, but the thing for Kenwyne is for him to grasp the nettle.
“What makes Chelsea, Manchester United or Liverpool players stand out is that they can perform at a level week in, week out. It’s a level a lot of players find difficult to get to. They’re the demands of a huge club and we’ve got to try and get Kenwyne like that, because when he is playing at his best, he is a fantastic footballer.
“He tests your skills as a manager. He’s a big, genuine, nice lad, an easy-going, gentle boy. The challenge is to get the best out of him. The ability is there.
Kenwyne Jones proving a challenge says Bruce.
By Stuart Rayner (The Journal).
Steve Bruce admits working with Kenwyne Jones is a test of his managerial qualities but one he expects to continue for some time yet after casting doubt over whether any of the enigmatic striker’s suitors can afford him.
The Black Cats manager is monitoring Schalke’s Kevin Kuranyi, and interest from Birmingham City and Stoke City in Jones led to the conclusion that the latter’s days on Wearside are numbered.
But Bruce’s scepticism over those deals lead him to think otherwise.
Playing down transfer speculation was the order of the day as Bruce questioned his ability to land Club America forward Salvador Cabañas, and rubbished talk of a £5m move for Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Chris Kirkland.
Those who have only seen Jones fleetingly will be surprised to hear Sunderland contemplating letting the Trinidadian go.
The problem is, many Black Cats season ticket holders have only occasionally seen the real Jones too. Bruce knows it is a problem he must address.
"He tests your skills as a manager," he said. "He’s a big, genuine, nice lad, an easy-going, gentle boy.
"It’s always the challenge – to get the best out of him. We know what it (the cause of his inconsistency) is. The ability is there."
Former Sunderland manager Roy Keane once valued Jones at £40m. Now Bruce wants Jones to justify that.
"On his day you can look at Kenwyne and say he’s worth £40m, then on another day you’ll think, ‘Come on you’," he said. "That’s Kenwyne. With his ability, he could play in any team. The thing for Kenwyne is for him to grasp the nettle.
"To be a Chelsea player, a Man U player or a Liverpool player, what makes them stand out is they can perform at a level week in, week out.
"It’s a level a lot of players find difficult to get to.
"We’ve got to try and get Kenwyne like that, because when he is at his best, he is a fantastic footballer.
"In football everybody’s got their price, whether you’re Steven Gerrard or Cristiano Ronaldo. The one thing I want to do is try and build a squad.
"If something out there blows our brains maybe, but with no disrespect to Stoke or Birmingham, can they afford him? I very much doubt it.
"It’s not just the transfer fee but wages, all the rest of it. I just can’t see it."
Jones has scored in only four matches this season, netting six goals in 19 appearances.
Bruce’s ill-disguised frustration with Jones prompted an enquiry for Germany’s Kuranyi, but he now appears to have given up on signing the Brazilian-born player this month.
"Kuranyi is out of contract with Schalke (in the summer), I don’t think he’ll come out," he explained. "I think he’ll wait to be a Bosman. I genuinely believe that.
"We’re interested, but that’s all. There’s going to be 50 clubs I would have thought who will be interested too.
"If you were him, would you come out now when you’re a Bosman in four months?"
Sunderland have been linked with a loan for 29-year-old Cabañas – a Paraguay team-mate of Paulo Da Silva’s.
Bruce confirmed his interest, but again played it down.
"He’s had problems with a tax issue," he revealed. "Cabañas is a fantastic player, whether it’s possible, I’m not quite sure.
"He’s somebody who would be of interest but I’m sure if he became available, there’d be lots more interest."
The Black Cats boss did not hide his frustration at the speculation.
"Some of it is ridiculous," he commented. "I have to try and dampen this down a little bit. I’m reading stuff in every Sunday paper and just laughing at half of it. It’s totally nonsensical.
"I must have been buying 25 in the January window already and we’re only a week in. We’ve got one or two irons in the fire, nothing is imminent. We’ll see.
"I read the Chris Kirkland stuff – "Bruce’s £5m swoop". £5m for Kirkland? Can’t see it."
l Sunderland’s FA Youth Cup fourth round tie at home to Preston North End has been rearranged for a week tomorrow.
Birmingham: Jones not worth £10 million.
T&T Guardian Reports.
Birmingham has told Sunderland to drop demands for Kenwyne Jones if Black Cats boss Steve Bruce is to offload the striker. City has held talks with Premier League rivals about signing 25-year-old T&T hitman Jones.
Despite Bruce’s claims to have received no bids for the ace, City has made it clear they are willing to pay £10 million for Jones.
But Sunderland is insisting on at least £11m with various add-ons pushing the total package up to around £14m. And Jones’ huge £50,000-a-week wages plus appearance money, agreed last year when he snubbed Spurs, mean City will have to break their wage structure to get Jones.
Brum owner Carson Yeung has offered manager Alex McLeish cash to do the deal if he wants but they are now considering other options. McLeish said: “We are not just going for the big signings because there is money there as it is too big a step.
“I’ve seen what has happened to clubs over the past few years, spending beyond their means and upsetting the wage structure.” However sources close to Jones said on Sunday that he was set to snub Birmingham’s bid to sign him and stay at Sunderland until the summer as he wants to hang on in the hope of a move that will give him the chance to play Champions League football.
And if that doesn’t happen at one of the Big Four clubs in this country he’ll try to move abroad when the season ends.
Stadium of Light boss Steve Bruce has insisted publicly he doesn’t want to sell but has only played the 25-year-old for 90 minutes six times in the Premier League this season. Mc Leish expects to tie up a £3m deal for midfielder Michel from Sporting Gijon this week, but it was Jones —with 23 goals from 71 League games for the Black Cats - who was his major target.
An insider said: “At 25 Kenwyne sees himself as being ready to take a step up if he leaves Sunderland and if a chance to play Champions League football doesn’t happen now then he’ll wait to assess the situation.” It is also rumoured that Liverpool could offer Ryan Babel in a deal to take Jones from Sunderland.
Bruce: You cant afford Jones.
By Simon Bird (Mirror.co.uk).
Steve Bruce yesterday revealed his frustration with Kenwyne Jones's yo-yo form and warned interested Birmingham they can't afford him.
The Blues are ready with an £11million bid for Jones, but the Sunderland boss doesn't believe they can match his wages.
Bruce said the Trinidad star is a test of his management skills because "one game he looks like a £40m player and another day you think, 'Come on'."
Bruce has told Jones he has to produce his best form more often to attract a top-four club, which is his dream.
He added: "With no disrespect to Stoke or Birmingham, can they afford Kenwyne? I very much doubt it. It's not just the transfer fee but wages, all the rest of it." Bruce has taken his squad to Portugal to get ready for the trip to Stamford Bridge after two snow-bound weeks.
He would consider an offer for Jones if a replacement can be found first. A bid for Shalke's Kevin Kuranyi has failed.