DESPITE claims earlier this summer that Steve Bruce would listen to offers for Kenwyne Jones, the Sunderland manager has warmed up for tonights visit of Chelsea by comparing his highly-rated striker to Didier Drogba.
Had Bruce been successful in his pursuit of Peter Crouch this summer, Jones future would have been thrown into further doubt given the admiration Harry Redknapp has for his talent.
Redknapps successful purchase of Sunderland target Crouch, however, increased the need for Bruce to make sure he helped Jones rediscover the form that attracted the Premier Leagues top clubs in his first season on Wearside.
The 24-year-old has not made a bad start either, having delivered a display offering plenty of encouraging signs at Bolton to suggest he can build an exciting partnership with Darren Bent this season.
Bruce is confident that will be the case, claiming that when Chelsea turn out at the Stadium of Light tonight they will have a striker leading the line who Jones should be looking to emulate.
The kids got a bit of Drogba about him, hasnt he If you catch him on his day then because of his physical presence, pace and power, hes unplayable, said Bruce.
Theres not many people physically as big as the boy.
When I first saw Kenwyne play against Birmingham, when I was manager there, he scored two. What happened before, Im not really interested in. Its how I can get the best out of him.
Certainly I think Bent and Fraizer Campbell will help because their workrate is phenomenal.
Hell have to do it because if he doesnt do it for me, he doesnt play. Its as simple as that. I dont stand on ceremony, they have to go and give everything theyve got.
He certainly did that on Saturday.
While Jones was helping Sunderland to an opening day win at Bolton, Drogba scored both of Chelseas goals as Carlo Ancelottis team responded from a goal down to beat Hull 2-1 in the dying seconds.
Bruce knows his striker, a £6m buy in 2007 that Roy Keane once claimed was worth £40m, still has a long way to go before he can think about achieving what the former Marseille man has.
The Sunderland boss, however, feels Jones is going the right way about things again, having spent last season unsettled by interest from Tottenham as he slowly recovered from a serious knee injury.
I think the big thing against him last year was that Kenwyne missed the first three or four months of the season, said Bruce.
Players who are always playing catch-up struggle. Hes come back and missed the first week with a bit of a groin (strain) but after that hes been absolutely excellent.
All the ingredients are there with Kenwyne, its how we get the best out of him, how he gets the best out of himself.
Well see how far he goes in his career. Having started the season with a solid victory at the Reebok Stadium, Bruce knows the visit of Chelsea presents a completely different test and brings a test of belief more than anything else something he witnessed in abundance on Sunday night.
The former Manchester United defender stayed up to witness South Korean golfer YE Yang overcome a twostroke advantage to play the round of his life to edge out Tiger Woods to win the US PGA Championship.
Its a belief that you can do it at the end of the day, he said. But you know to do it Yang had to be above his best. Its the same for a team game too.
What makes the top teams is that they havent got a weakness and theyre all capable at what they can do. When it goes to the wire one of the big players usually produces.
Theyre highly impressive. They have real strength, theyre a huge, powerful team, difficult to play against. Thats why, for me, whoever finishes above Chelsea will win the league.
Time is running down for Bruce who has doubts over Steed Malbranque (ankle) and Kieran Richardson (dead leg) to be able to call on Lyon defender John Mensah for tonights fixture, despite a deal being close for the Ghana international.
Mensah was at the Academy of Light yesterday finalising the terms of a season long loan from the French champions, with a view to a £6m transfer next season.
Its fair to say that were close to agreeing a deal, said Bruce, who is still hoping to land one more before the end of the month.
Ill hopefully know more in the next 24, 48 hours, we hope so.
SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): Fulop; Bardsley, Ferdinand, Collins, McCartney; Leadbitter, Cana, Cattermole, Richardson; Jones, Bent.