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It is a dilemma that risks rifts in board rooms and managers' reputations on the terraces - but how do you justify dropping your record signing?

After shattering the transfer record to recruit Kenwyne Jones in the summer, Tony Pulis must have been convinced that the giant Trinidad & Tobago international would solve Stoke's perennial goalscoring problem.

His talent has never been in question, with both Liverpool and Spurs coveting him in the past, and Pulis thought maybe an arm around the shoulder would have ensured that undoubted potential would be fully realised at the Britannia Stadium.

But it is becoming increasingly difficult for Pulis to keep the faith with the 26-year-old and it may now be time to finally take him out of the firing line or risk accusations of favouritism.

Pulis has insisted Jones would be chasing the Champions League if he was more consistent. He reckons the £8 million buy has all the weapons in his armoury to be turning out for the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea.

But Jones has recently become a surprise target for the boo boys after a string of disappointing displays and only one goal in the last 14 games.

He has looked nothing like the player Chelsea and England star John Terry once branded the "best in the air in the entire Premier League". Indeed, there was a humiliating moment in the recent game against Sunderland when Jones winning a rare header was met with ironic, mocking applause from his own supporters.

Pulis has hinted at off-field problems affecting Jones but needs to make a decision soon. He said: "Kenwyne has been up and down but that's Kenwyne. If he was spot on every week he wouldn't be playing for Stoke, he'd be at one of the top four.

"Players go up and down and you have to accept that. He wants to do it and we want to help him. He's part of the family and when things aren't going well for people in respect of their family we all rally around.

"Kenwyne just needs a goal to get his confidence back up. We're sure playing up front with big John Carew will help him and get him back to where he wants to be."

Recent events, however, have ensured that he may actually keep his place. Mama Sidibe's heartbreaking Achilles injury suffered in training, just as he was completing his rehabilitation, has robbed the Potters of one of their key men under Pulis.

There are also doubts over Ricardo Fuller, who made it clear he wanted to leave in January and is unhappy with the club's decision not to offer him a new contract. He almost joined Sunderland last month and his state of mind is unclear.

But the problems surrounding Jones will be causing Pulis the greatest headaches. Jones has shown glimpses of what he can do but they have been seldom seen, particularly recently. An FA Cup game against Brighton this weekend could be just what he needs, to rebuild his shattered confidence.