Will Jones’ hat-trick signal the end or a new beginning at Stoke?

Posted by James Whittaker

Scott Heavey/Getty ImagesKenwyne Jones was all smiles after netting his hat trick against Walsall.

While Stoke scour the world over in their search for a goal-scorer, forgotten man Kenwyne Jones slammed in a hat trick to put his club into the next round of the Carling Cup, continuing his impressive, and often ignored, record in front of goal.

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I'm a big fan of Jones and always have been. He arrived to much fanfare as well he should for an £8m record signing and went on to become a leading light, firing the club to two Wembley appearances along the way. Sadly, Tony Pulis then dropped him to accommodate his unhealthy former England striker obsession and the rest, like Pulis himself, is history.

Our dreadlocked Trinidadian was top scorer in his first season, and was the same in his second until the arrival of Peter Crouch, at which point he was inexcusably dropped with little chance of featuring again. But feature he did and most recently, by the power of Fabricio Coloccini's elbow, he was back and staking his futile claim for inclusion with three goals in seven games over Christmas, but was dropped once more by you-know-who for you-know-who.

Jones' hat trick last night means he has now scored a goal every two matches over his last ten competitive starts for the Potters; six in six in the Carling Cup and a healthy one in two in the Gold Cup for Trinidad and Tobago last month. All this begs the question: why is he sitting on the bench running his contract down when he is clearly the best option that the club have up front? It's no secret that he has been badly treated in the past so in that respect I can't blame him and understand fully his decision to not sign a new deal.

Things have changed now though; a new manager is here, and yes, he hasn't fancied Jones himself until last night, but at least now he will consider him for a starting position in the league based on the merit of his performance, a foreign concept for so long. Hopefully Hughes will look closely at that option for Saturday and beyond and give the nod to a man who scored in one night what his replacement has taken over 30 games to do.

Unfortunately, while the facts are more than enough for the more balanced fan, there are still those sympathetic to Pulis' demise that are often quick to dismiss Jones' contributions whenever he comes in and sticks it to them and their former manager. Yes, it was only Walsall, but he can only score against who is in front of him, and looking back a season you will see Crouch failed to score against Palace in over two hours in the Cup before Jones came on and scored within 10 minutes sparking a four goal haul for his side.

Only the club and player himself will know what lies ahead. With it being the last week of the transfer window, I anticipate that there will be bids received for his services, though it remains to be seen whether the club will cash in on a player in the last year of his contract or persuade him to commit to a new deal under a manager who will treat him more fairly than the last. But time is running out to discuss and agree a new position, let alone a new deal. So until then, the fans can only ponder whether Jones' first career hat-trick will signal the end of his career in the Potteries or see a resurrection of it. Over to you Sparky...

Vis Unita Fortior

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