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Kenwyne JonesBirmingham City came close to signing Kenwyne Jones in January, Alex McLeish has admitted.

They received encouragement from Sunderland that £11 million would do it, but then the transfer collapsed.

Jones, who could be fit to face Blues tomorrow at the Stadium of Light after a hip injury, was seeking to match his whopping salary of around £70,000-a-week on Wearside, which Blues couldn’t justify.

McLeish said: “It was close. I knew Kenwyne from Rangers as well. We had him when he was a young boy. But we had work permit problems and he ended up at Southampton.

“But, yes we nearly had him here at Birmingham. In the end we balked a little bit overall cost, for a club such as us. Maybe it just wasn’t the right moment to do a deal like that.”

McLeish, though, still likes the powerful frontman.

“You get a lot of strikers in football who are great at assists and they do a lot of work for other players to score.

“When I think of players like that, I think of Bobby Zamora, Jay Bothroyd at Cardiff. They are not renowned goalscorers but they do a lot of the donkey work for other people.

“Big Kenwyne is a guy who strikes fear into defenders with his presence and will keep things alive for others to pounce.

“I’m sure Darren Bent will say Kenwyne has been a big help to him.”