Sunderland want Jones to give Eriksson short shrift

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The Independent Football

Sven Goran Eriksson has revealed that when he was manager of Lazio he tried to sign Roy Keane from Manchester United. "I was on the phone to his agent," Eriksson said, "but then he signed a new contract with United." Now Manchester City's manager, Eriksson will shake hands with Keane, the manager of Sunderland, at Eastlands tonight.

Keane knows the flattering side of what it is like to be a wanted man and he is coming to understand the potential hazards of having one in his team. In this case it is Kenwyne Jones, with whom Keane raised eyebrows with his £6m purchase from Southampton in August.

But Jones has scored four times in seven Premier League games for the Wearsiders – three in his last three – and Keane said: "If he continues in the form he's in, I would expect some calls. That shows the progress he has made in a short period. There are not that many big target-men out there. So the fact that he is quick and has a good touch makes it obvious that people will identify him. As for his opponents, it's one thing identifying certain players, stopping them is another thing."

A link has already been made with Liverpool and it would have been interesting to note Jones's language last week when he described life on Wearside as "a bit slow" and "quite hard, different." Jones added: "Sometimes you might need more excitement." Southampton must have been something else.

What is undeniable is that the 23-year-old from Trinidad has established himself as a key Sunderland player in just two months and, with Keane still feeling the hardship of injuries to last season's important duo of Dean Whitehead and Carlos Edwards, Jones's maturity has been welcome.

"He's a physical presence for us," Keane said. "We have to be careful not to put too much pressure on him. He's new to the Premier League but he has taken the responsibility on like a true man and that's what pleases me the most.

"He's laid-back. He's that character. I saw him on his second day here and it felt like he had been at the club a long, long time. He was talking to the girls in the office. A lot of the lads do that, the ones from Trinidad in particular."

Perhaps of more relevance tonight are the 20 goals Sunderland have conceded so far. City lost 6-0 at Chelsea in their last league match but a win would take them third.