Premier League

Guess Who’s At Stoke Today?

Sunderland’s Kenwyne Jones is talking at Stoke today as the two clubs have reached an agreement for a fee believed to be around £9million. Since joining the Black Cats from Southampton for £6million in 2007, the striker has sent the home fans into raptures of both applause and moans, scoring 26 goals in 94 games.

With a very positive start to his Sunderland career, Jones made his debut away to Manchester United. Despite the team losing 1-0, Jones impressed with his ability to trouble the opposition’s defence with his sheer physical presence. The Trinidadian showed another side to his game scoring from 25 yards with his left foot on his home debut against Reading.

Quickly becoming Sunderland’s key man up front, the team relied heavily on the striker’s goals, though they didn’t arrive in abundance. Kenwyne scored 7 Premier League goals in his first season for Sunderland as the team avoided relegation to finish 15th.

Given the physical attributes of the player – strength and height (6 ft 1 12 in) , and some would argue pace, the striker would find himself all over the pitch providing extra cover. Jones was always the extra man defending set pieces and scrapping around in his own box in the final minutes if Sunderland were holding out for a win or draw.

Though this was obviously of benefit to his team, it could be a major factor in hindering the progress of Jones as a striker. Persecuted by the crowd for lack-lustre performances, it’s no wonder given the variety of roles required from the striker in a single game, making the schizophrenic character Norman Bates from Psycho look relatively normal in comparison.

Evidence of a dent in Jones’ confidence as an out and out forward showed in his last season and a half, a lot of which was blamed on outside influences including Rafa Benitez’s interest in signing the player in the 2009 January transfer window. One on one with Pepe Reina at Annfield in the 2008/09 season, the striker had little much left to do to show his worth. Either side foot to the keeper’s left or smash it past the Spaniard’s right. All too predictably a cloud of doubt formed over the striker’s head as he either miss hit it, or as it seemed, simply chipped it into the arms of Reina.

Granted, Jones was under pressures in that game following the transfer speculation linking him away from Sunderland. He was also playing in front of the unforgiving Annfield faithful, and with the club on a hideous run, the forward’s goal would have been a contributing nail in the coffin for Liverpool‘s still possible title challenge. Excuses aside, the past season has been plagued with poor touches, embarrassing efforts and a shortage of desire in his performances.

More laid back than Cheech and Chong, Steve Bruce cites the striker’s cultural up bringing in the West Indies for his horizontal approach to just about everything.

More blame should be directed towards the way in which the forward has been ordered to play. If he’d been played as a proper striker, ordered to stay up the field, hassle the opposition, Jones is likely to have developed into a fine player. Instead he’s been left in limbo, verging on positions, looking downright confused. Keane and Sbragia are as much at fault as Bruce for this.

Linked with a £20million move to Tottenham just a couple of seasons ago, Niall Quinn did his utmost to keep Jones giving him a new lucrative four and a half year deal. It shows how much Steve Bruce now values Jones if he’s willing to let him go for £9million.

Going to Stoke won’t change the player’s game much. Though he will have more opportunity to play to his strengths in the air, the ball doesn’t see much of the surface at the Britannia stadium, so it’s unlikely that Jones will improve in the areas that he needs in order to become a top Premiership player. It’s just a pity Sunderland fans won’t see the celebratory back flips in the Tyne and Wear derbies this season. Well, unless Ameobi scores.

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