Harry Redknapp last night hit back at Ricky Sbragia's allegation that Tottenham tapped up Kenwyne Jones by accusing Sunderland of doing the same to Darren Bent. Sunderland believe that they have won the battle to keep Jones and are hopeful of making an announcement on his future in the next 48 hours.
Redknapp, whose Tottenham side play a crucial league game against Stoke City tonight, has not given up all hope of signing Jones, despite declaring the deal "dead" yesterday. The Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, has also made enquiries about the Blackburn Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz, although Spurs fear that any offer they make for the player will be trumped before Saturday night by Manchester City.
Having completed the signing of old boy Pascal Chimbonda yesterday, Spurs also investigated signing another Sunderland striker, Djibril Cissé. However, Cissé's appearance for Marseilles in a game against Rennes in August precluded a deal for the striker, on a season-long loan, under the rule that prevents any player appearing for more than two clubs in a season.
Redknapp went on the offensive over Sbragia's criticism of Tottenham's pursuit, claiming Levy and the Sunderland chairman, Niall Quinn, had been in legitimate negotiations over the player. Redknapp said: "So is someone upsetting Darren Bent? He said to me, 'I hear Sunderland want me'. I said, 'I don't know, I haven't spoken to anyone at Sunderland'. He said 'Well, my agent says they want me'. So someone is talking to someone. I could say the same thing, that Sunderland are upsetting Darren Bent.
"I don't know what unsettling Kenwyne Jones is. The fact the chairman makes an offer? And he talks to Niall Quinn about it for a few days? If you don't want to sell him you say 'No, thank you very much'. That is the end of it.
"There must be a glimmer of hope with both parties or you don't talk to each other. Don't talk if you don't want to sell. If you asked me if I wanted to sell my car and I said 'No', that is the end of it. You don't keep ringing me up. You don't have dialogue with someone if they don't want to. But they decided they wanted to keep him so good for them."
Keeping Jones at Sunderland will be a major coup for Quinn, although Redknapp's assumption that the player had finalised a new deal was premature. Sunderland, who play Fulham tonight, are confident that the 24-year-old Trinidadian will make a long-term commitment to the club. Spurs have offered £15m for Jones, having originally offered Bent plus £6m.
Redknapp said: "I don't have to ask a player, 'Would you be interested in going?' He already knows because his agent's telling him, who has been talking to the other club and that's how it all is now. We are just part of the chain, probably way down the chain as managers. It's all agents, they have the ear of every chairman and chief executive in the country. It's all changed."
Spurs also completed the signing of Carlo Cudicini from Chelsea on a free transfer, and the goalkeeper will go straight into the side against Stoke, with Heurelho Gomes still injured.
Chimbonda's signing was too late to enable him to play tonight. The new £14m signing Wilson Palacios will also have to wait for his debut, as he is still serving a suspension. Hossam Ghaly, meanwhile, has joined Saudi Arabia's Nassr Saudi Club.
"No one expected Tottenham to be in this [relegation battle] situation," Cudicini said. "I think the team has the quality and the character to come out of this situation."
Sunderland's manager, Sbragia, had earlier criticised Spurs, claiming there had "been a lot of pressure" on Jones. "He wants to stay at Sunderland, which is good for us. There is a lot going on, there's lot of pressure on him and the club, but he's an important member of the team and we want to build a team around him. I just think Kenwyne will be a Sunderland player and will be here after the deadline."
Chimbonda, 29, who left Tottenham under a cloud in the summer, had not settled well in Sunderland according to Redknapp, who said he was not worried about the Spurs' fans' reaction. "If he comes here and starts roaring down the line and crossing balls and scoring goals, it isn't a problem," he said. "If he plays badly he will be unpopular."
Redknapp would admit to tapping up only one player yesterday and that was the Stoke manager, Tony Pulis, signed by Redknapp when he was Bournemouth manager and Pulis was still a player. "We played Bristol Rovers," Redknapp said, "and Tony Pulis sorted out our midfielder Keith Williams, a real hard nut, like nothing I'd ever seen in my life. I thought, 'I could do with that lunatic'.
"I drove all the way down to watch him play for Newport. Tony was sitting having a cup of tea, because he wasn't even playing. So I tapped him up anyway and signed him on a free."