Bruce and Benitez renew rivalry
Bruce was furious at persistent speculation from Merseyside during the winter transfer window that the Trinidad & Tobago international would leave Wearside and join the Reds on loan for the rest of the season before completing a permanent switch during the summer. Jones was clearly unsettled by the rumours and his form dipped alarmingly and, while his manager insists there will be no continued resentment as he sends his team out at Anfield, the saga still clearly rankles. Bruce said: "Listen, it's said and done. In management, you have to do one thing, which is look after your own club. "I couldn't get away from the speculation and, for me, it did affect Kenwyne. "He must have read some of the reports thinking I had gone loopy, thinking I was going to let him go on loan. "It was continuous. I don't know where the notion came from - I was thinking, 'Am I going round the twist here? Am I missing the plot?'. "Kenwyne Jones going on loan - I am sorry, but it was just a non-starter. "But it kept going and going and going. Obviously, Rafa Benitez must have been getting the information from somewhere. "I would have thought, out of decency, maybe he would have done the honourable thing and rung me if there was an interest. "But the speculation kept going and going and, for me, affected Kenwyne and affected the team. "Thankfully, when the window shut and all the nonsense had gone away, we started seeing the best of Kenwyne again, and it was nice to see." The January stand-off between the two managers came after a heated verbal exchange on the sidelines at the Stadium of Light in October when Bruce made his feelings known as Benitez complained about the length of time taken for Jones to be treated for an injury. Bruce said: "We all do stupid things in the heat of the moment, but for me, it was handbags." Benitez's ill temper could have been due in part to one of the most bizarre incidents in Premier League history. Five minutes into what proved to be a tight encounter, Darren Bent's shot was deflected past goalkeeper Jose Reina by a beachball which had been thrown on to the pitch by one of the travelling fans behind the goal, and its intervention proved decisive. Bruce joked: "It [the beachball] is in the skip. We have packed it. "The game will always be remembered for it. No matter that we beat them 1-0 on the day, it will always be remembered for the beachball incident." On more than one occasion, Bruce has remarked that his side has enjoyed little good fortune since that afternoon with injuries and suspensions having limited his options. However, the Black Cats head to Merseyside having dragged themselves 11 points clear of the relegation zone with a hard-fought midweek draw at Aston Villa, although knowing their record at Anfield is poor. Bruce said: "Our record there is pretty abysmal - twice in 50 years, we have won, so we know what we have got to do." Jones could return from a hip flexor injury, but John Mensah is a doubt with a hamstring problem. But, as a former Manchester United star, Bruce knows at least one thing is assured - his own warm welcome from the home fans. He smiled as he said: "I get abused from pillar to post. I don't know what they will call me this year, but they will have something in their locker. "But I have always done okay at Anfield, touch wood."