Jones gives Keane a boost with early return from injury

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Sunderland's Kenwyne Jones, who the club feared would be sidelined for much of the season, may only miss the first five Premier League games. A relieved Roy Keane said yesterday that Jones's medical assessment and subsequent operation on Monday brought brighter news than expected and that Jones is out only for a further "six to eight weeks".

"He has avoided major surgery which is fantastic news for everyone at the club because Kenwyne is a big player for us," Keane said. "He has not done his cruciate, which we did not know until he had the surgery. So, six to eight weeks, he will be back in contention for the first team again."

Jones was injured in an collision with England's goalkeeper David James when playing for Trinidad and Tobago on 1 June in a friendly international. September's World Cup qualifiers give Sunderland added time and Jones could be ready to play at Aston Villa on 27 September. Keane added that the news will not prevent him seeking a new striker to take away some of the goalscoring responsibility after the team narrowly avoided relegation last season.

Meanwhile, Michael Ballack maintains he will be fighting fit to drive Chelsea on next season. The 31-year-old midfielder was given some extra time off to recuperate following Germany's run to the final of the European Championships. Ballack featured during the 5-0 victory over AC Milan at the Russian Railways Cup in Moscow and now intends to step up his preparations ahead of the opening game against Portsmouth at Stamford Bridge in 10 days' time.

"I played longer than anybody else, but I am happy to be back," Ballack told the official Chelsea website, www.chelseafc.com. "It is harder to work on your own at first, but now I am with the team and have some extra sessions of my own with the fitness coach. The body has to recover, that's the important thing."

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