Steve Bruce is hoping Kenwyne Jones can rediscover his best form and help Sunderland out of their recent rut after no deadline day transfer materialised for the Trinidad and Tobago striker.
Liverpool were heavily linked with Jones for the duration of the winter window but no deal was struck and Jones instead led the line in the 0-0 draw with Stoke City at the Stadium of Light on Monday night.
Jones was far from his inspirational best but showed enough of an improvement on his recent displays, which Bruce had attributed to the uncertainty over his future, to hint at a strong end to the campaign. "I thought Kenwyne did much better [against Stoke]," Bruce said. "It hasn't been easy with the constant speculation but I've repeatedly said that I'm trying to build a squad and a team here and the last thing I want to be doing is letting my good players go.
"It has been unsettling for him, I'm sure, but we can all get turned around now and forget about all that for a few months and get on with the job in hand."
If the Black Cats are to recover from their dismal recent run, which now stands at one league win in 14 outings since they overturned Liverpool in October, Bruce feels his side might need more craft to add to their industry. "There were a few nerves," he said after the Stoke game. "But nobody could complain about the effort. The endeavour was there but we actually took the effort too far and forgot to play. We needed a little bit of quality."
Potters manager Tony Pulis was pleased with his side's point but was less than happy about preparing for a match as the transfer deadline came to a frantic close. "It was a difficult day for me, playing in a game of football that you're desperate to get points out of and you've got this circus going on," he said. "It's an absolute joke."