Sunderland determined to keep Jones despite Tottenham bid

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The Independent Football

Ricky Sbragia is determined to build his Sunderland team around Kenwyne Jones after rebuffing Tottenham's latest approach.

The 52-year-old Scot has made no secret of his anger at the tactics the Londoners have employed in an effort to sign the 24-year-old Trinidad and Tobago international.

However, he and chairman Niall Quinn have wasted little time in sitting down with the former Southampton striker and telling him just how much they think of him, and the central role he has in their future plans.

Sbragia said: "We spoke to him on Friday and he surprised me a little bit. He was chilled, really cool, not a problem.

"We spoke to him about the importance of him to the club. He knows we don't want to lose him.

"There has been a lot of pressure on him and there has been a lot of pressure on the club in general, but the club has stood very firm.

"He is an important member of the team. We would like to build the team around him and we would like him to stay here and he has indicated he would like to stay here.

"We want to build a team around Kenwyne, we don't want to lose him and I believe he will be here.

"I can't see him leaving the club."

Spurs' recruitment drive has attracted criticism from various quarters in recent weeks with Middlesbrough unhappy at the aborted pursuit of Stewart Downing, and Sunderland have been equally unimpressed.

But asked if they would take the complaint further, Sbragia said: "No, not at all.

"It is just that's the way they work and I work a different way."

The two clubs did manage to reach agreement over one player last night when the Wearsiders gave Spurs permission to talk to full-back Pascal Chimbonda just six months after he travelled in the opposite direction.

Sbragia was reluctant to let the 29-year-old leave Wearside as he continues his attempts to strengthen his defensive resources, but admitted the price - understood to match the £3m initially paid for him - was right.

He said: "Sometimes you have just got to do what you think is right for the player. He has struggled to settle in from day one.

"I don't want to lose him, I want to keep him here, but we have been given an offer. We think it's realistic, it's the value we see for the player."

Sbragia, who had hoped to have at least one new signing in place ahead of tomorrow night's Barclays Premier League clash with Fulham, admitted the decision to allow Chimbonda to head south reflected the progress the club has made with its targets.

He added: "Yes, we are making slight progress. We enquired about a player yesterday and then we probably need to go in for another one.

"We have got one, we think, probably lined up, but it is down to getting permission to speak to him in more depth."

However, Sbragia played down suggestions that Sunderland are one of a posse of clubs chasing Leeds's £8million-rated teenage midfielder Fabian Delph.

Sunderland head into tomorrow's game looking for a first league win in five attempts to ease themselves further clear of the drop zone.

Sbragia said: "We know what we have to do tomorrow, we know we have got to win.

"It is important. We know we can close the gap on Fulham and try to make that gap to the bottom teams a little bit more in points.

"But we know it is going to be very difficult."

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