Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has challenged Kenwyne Jones to start justifying his £50,000-a-week salary after claiming his striker had been distracted by speculation linking him with Liverpool.
Bruce called for the Trinidad & Tobago international to help return Sunderland to winning ways again ahead of Wednesday's trip to Merseyside against Everton, where his team will be out to register their first Premier League win since last November.
"If his head's been turned, if he doesn't want to be here, I don't know," Bruce said.
"All I know is we pay him very, very well, he's a big hero with the supporters here, we have to get him turned around and focussed on what he's good at, which is being a centre-forward and a good one.
"It's up to him and his own personal pride to be the player we know he is. All this nonsense hasn't helped, I'm totally convinced of that.
"We have to get him around and playing the way we know he can do and that is obviously my biggest job of the lot at the moment, getting him turned round and being the Kenwyne Jones we've seen before.
"With Kenwyne on the exterior nothing fazes him but the one thing we've got to do is get him back playing to the level which he's capable of. If we do, we know Sunderland are a far, far better team than what we're witnessing with Kenwyne at the moment."
Bruce said the notion he would consider loaning Jones to Liverpool was " ludicrous" and insisted he had not spoken to Liverpool counterpart Rafael Benitez about the former Southampton player and that the Spaniard's club had not tabled a bid to buy the £15 million forward.
"I know for a fact privately and publicly, they have unsettled the boy," Bruce said. "It's quite obviously plain to see and we've got to get him back on-side.
"The one thing I have got to do is get Kenwyne pointed in the right direction and playing the way we know he can do for Sunderland because if Saturday (a 2-1 defeat at Portsmouth) was anything to go by, it certainly affected him in a way that you know, he was no use, unfortunately.
"I tried to speak with him on Friday and put him in the picture. He's obviously hearing different stories and he's obviously maybe questioning me.
"I've tried to be as open as I possibly can with the boy to tell him what the situation is. If Liverpool are there and ready to make an offer, even with four days to go it's very difficult to even consider it."
Bruce hit the roof last week over Liverpool's pursuit of Jones prompting Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn to hold talks with Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow over the weekend.
"The first conversation between the two clubs was on Friday evening," Bruce said. "I've not spoken to Rafa Benitez since. That's why I tried to nip it in the bud on Friday because I kept reading about the same things day after day after day, that I was going to let him leave on loan. It had to be put to bed.
"I've never been in any doubt that I don't want to sell him. I never wanted to sell Emile Heskey last Christmas; I never wanted to sell (Wilson) Palacios to Tottenham, or (Luis Antonio) Valencia to Man United. However, I've been in it long enough to understand if the money's there and it's right, who knows?