Sunderland boss Roy Keane faces an anxious wait as he attempts to assemble a forward line for the new season.
The Irishman relied heavily on £6m signing Kenwyne Jones last season, and has been conscious of the need to provide him with support for some time.
However, his recruitment mission is being complicated by the 23-year-old Trinidad and Tobago international’s knee injury, which has been the subject of intense speculation in recent days.
Sunderland revealed last week that the full extent of the damage to his medial ligament is not yet clear despite two scans, and that a further assessment would be made after “several weeks of conservative treatment”.
Reports over the weekend suggested that Jones, who was hurt just minutes into his country’s friendly clash with England earlier this month, has been booked in for surgery later this week and may not play again this calendar year.
His club have since insisted that nothing has changed from their initial statement, and the fans will hope for better news when a new round of tests are carried out.
However, if an operation and a lengthy period of rehabilitation were required, that would represent a serious blow for Keane, whose admiration for his signing of last summer is well-documented.
Jones may have scored only seven goals last season – a tally international team-mate Dwight Yorke insists he must improve upon markedly if he is to be regarded as a top performer in the Barclays Premier League – but he provided a vital focal point for his team and proved a real handful for defenders as they attempted to cope with his aerial ability, pace and power.
Having already set his sights on potential partners for Jones, Keane may now have to consider, at least in the short-term, a replacement, and it is no surprise that he has been linked in recent days with Tottenham’s Darren Bent and West Ham’s Carlton Cole.
It is understood that Bent was considered as a possibilty before Jones’ injury, although the initial response to an early inquiry was lukewarm.
In addition, Aston Villa have also been credited with an interest in the £16.5million man, and their hand could be strengthened financially if Liverpool’s pursuit of midfielder Gareth Barry proves successful.
Niall Quinn’s Drumaville consortium provided Keane with £44million in transfer fees last season and is sure to back him strongly once again.
However, the difficulty of attracting big names to the north-east even if they can be prised away from their clubs is no secret to the Irishman after two years at the helm.
Meanwhile, Chelsea midfielder Steve Sidwell, who has been linked with both the Black Cats and derby rivals Middlesbrough, today seemed destined for Villa Park.