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On This Day (26 Jan 2010): “Disrespectful!” — Bruce blasts Benitez over Liverpool’s Jones chase

Benitez was stirring things up – and Bruce wasn’t happy!

Photo by John Cocks/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Steve Bruce’s first season in charge at the Stadium of Light had gotten off to an incredibly promising start, and up until the end of November, we’d been comfortably sitting in towards the top end of the table, rather than the bottom, where we were more accustomed to being.

By the time January came round, however, things had slowed a little; a 7-2 thumping against Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea made it one league win in 12, and we were also knocked out of the FA Cup exit by fellow Premier League club Portsmouth.

We had the makings of a decent team – Cana and Cattermole, on their day, were formidable in the centre of midfield, while up front, the partnership of Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent was our most effective and exciting since the days of Quinn and Phillps.

While Bent was still a relative newcomer at the Stadium of Light – having joined in the summer – Jones was in his third season with the club, and had made his mark in the top flight. Yes, he was a bit raw, but he was incredibly powerful and could score, too.

John Terry famously labelled him his most difficult opponent, and that wasn’t an exaggeration. On his day, Kenwyne was unplayable.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

So, it was no surprise that other teams higher up the league were taking notice. Spurs desperately wanted to take him to White Hart Lane, while at this time 14 years ago, Liverpool and Sunderland were embroiled in an increasingly bitter situation. Steve Bruce and Niall Quinn were adamant the club hadn’t received an approach from Liverpool for Jones, but Reds boss Rafa Benitez publicly hinted otherwise in a clear attempt to unsettle the Trinidadian striker – which naturally drew Bruce’s ire, the Sunderland manager labelling Benitez’s behaviour as ‘disrespectful’.

Liverpool were reportedly interested in a loan with a view to a permanent move, and due to the deteriorating relationship between the clubs, Liverpool sporting director Christian Purslow called Quinny to smooth things over.

Benitez said:

I was not involved in this.

Christian Purslow was talking with Niall Quinn, so they are managing the situation because I was not doing anything.

I prefer not to talk too much because we will create a debate so Christian and Niall will continue to talk if they need to talk. They were in contact but I don’t know what the situation is now.

Sunderland, however, were busy making contingency plans to strengthen the forward line in the event of Jones’ departure, however we were seemingly unable to make any breakthrough of note.

Schalke’s Kevin Kuranyi had been chased unsuccessfully, while Bruce finally accepted that Emile Heskey’s immediate future lay with Aston Villa.

One striker Bruce thought he had landed was the Paraguayan Salvador Cabanas. Paraguay was an attractive market for Bruce – Paolo Da Silva and Christian Riveros arrived on Wearside during Bruce’s reign, but unfortunately for Sunderland and – more pertinently Cabanas – the 29-year-old striker had been shot in the head in Mexico City on the eve of completing his move to Europe.

As far as reasons for moves falling through, it’s a good one.

Aguilas del America v Rayados de Monterrey
Cabanas scored at better than 1 in 2 for 10 years before the incident in Mexico City
Photo by Francisco Estrada/Jam Media/LatinContent via Getty Images

Defensive reinforcements were also being sought, but moves for Hamburg’s Guy Demel, Villa’s Habib Beye and Rennes’ Rod Fanni also showed little sign of being completed before the window closed.

As it was, a striker did arrive in the form of Manchester City’s Benjani, who made little to no impact. Defensively, however, Spurs’ Alan Hutton impressed on loan at right back.

As for Cabanas, he survived to make a comeback in the Paraguayan third division two years later; however recently revealed it had been Manchester United, and not Sunderland, he was expecting to sign for.

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