Born: 5 October 1984 in Point Fortin, Trinidad & Tobago
Nationality: Trinidad and Tobago
Clubs: 2002: Joe Public. 2002-2004: W Connection. 2004-2007: Southampton (England). 2004-2005: Sheffield Wednesday (England, on loan). 2005: Stoke City (England, on loan). Since August 2007: Sunderland (England).
Honours: Played in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. 30 caps and 2 goals for Trinidad & Tobago.
Miscellaneous: Jones is the nephew of former international striker Philbert Jones. Kenwyne chose to pursue football as a profession ahead of athletics, basketball and cricket. He went on strike in protest at Southampton’s reluctance to sell him to Sunderland in August 2007. Statistics show Jones is the Premier League’s fourth fastest player, running at a top speed of 20.6mph whilst off the ball, then slowing to 20.2 while on the ball. Cristiano Ronaldo is the quickest.
Kenwyne Jones – the next Drogba?
When up-and-coming football strikers such as Fernando Torres and Carlos Tevez headed to Trinidad and Tobago for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2001, Kenwyne Jones was preoccupied with stopping them. Nowadays, the 23-year-old is more interested in copying their goalscoring feats in the English Premier League.
Jones was a strapping central football defender when the FIFA U-17 World Cup was staged in Trinidad and Tobago, but since 2001 he was been transformed into one of English football’s most talked-about strikers with some stirring performances for Sunderland. His elevation means that Jones has realised his ambition of playing on the same stage as Torres and Tevez again after initially struggling to make an impact in European football.
Jones has been described as “the best football striker in English football” by Sunderland manager Roy Keane but the laid-back Trinidad and Tobago forward is taking everything in his stride. Keane recently stuck a £40-million price tag on the 23-year-old to ward off the interest of Premier League rivals such as Liverpool, who are being widely tipped to make a move for the player this summer. I am happy to hear that the manager has such confidence in me but I do not tap into that stuff,” Jones told FIFA magazine. “I just put my head down and do what I have to do. If you start buying into all that you get sidetracked. You lose your way. You want to be at a place where you are wanted. No-one wants to get slagged off but I am happy that I am liked. I still have lots to do to be comfortable and earn that praise. I am happy they like what they are getting from me.”
“OF COURSE, I AM FLATTERED”
Not even the persistent rumours about forging a strike partnership with Fernando Torres at Liverpool have been enough to distract Jones, who started life in England with Championship side Southampton. That was where his desire to succeed was doubted so much by then manager Harry Redknapp – who turned him from a utility player into a forward – that he was sent out on loan to harden up at Stoke City and Sheffield Wednesday, where his career was finally kick-started.
It proved to be the making of Jones who was described as a “Didier Drogba in the making” by Southampton boss George Burley following Redknapp’s departure. “I have been linked with Liverpool and it is nice to be wanted but of course if you don’t attract interest then that may mean you are not doing things right,” Jones continued. “Of course, I am flattered but I am more concerned about the job in hand.”
Jones, who recently ended his international exile to return to the side under newly-appointed head coach Francisco Maturana, is also looking forward to locking horns with England in a friendly against his adopted country in the Caribbean this summer. “It will be really nice for the fans,” he said.
His decision to resume his international career following a dispute with his country’s football authorities following the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ finals in Germany means that he can continue serving his country, which he first did as a teenager back in his homeland. That was when the FIFA U-17 World Cup was staged in Trinidad and Tobago back in 2001 during the days when Jones was playing as a centre-half in a tournament that featured a string of players who have since gone on to grace English football.
A DIFFERENT WAY OF LIFE
These include player-of-the-tournament French striker Florent Sinama Pongolle and Anthony Le Tallec, who both played for Liverpool before Torres, Argentinian duo Carlos Tevez (Manchester United) and Javier Mascherano (Liverpool) as well as Brazilian midfielder Anderson (Manchester United) and Croatian winger Niko Kranjcar (Portsmouth). “Myself, Tevez and Torres all played in that tournament in 2001 and it is nice to see how we have all progressed,” Jones reminisced. “Torres was the same as he is now and Tevez was great. We all knew who they were and I have kept tabs on what they have done. I was just 16. France won it when they beat Nigeria 3-0 in the final. We got knocked out in the first round but it was still great for football in the Caribbean that we hosted the competition.”
Jones was brought up in Sobo Village in the Point Fortin area of picturesque Trinidad but nowadays he is happy to call the historic city of Durham in the north-east of England home, even though the nearby North Sea is far less hospitable than the Caribbean.
“It is a different way of life up here but having Carlos Edwards and Dwight Yorke with me at the club has helped me settle and it is nice to have friends before you arrive somewhere,” Jones added. “Dwight has been here in England for over 20 years and his experience has been vital. He knows how to act in certain situations and how to go about your job. We hang out but I am a family man so I spend a lot of time with my wife and kids. I don’t know what Dwight gets up to, I have three kids. A boy and two twin girls. Four years old and 15 months. They keep me very busy. Who knows what I would be doing if I didn’t have that type of responsibility?”
A BRAINWASHED BOY
Jones adds that it is nice to have something to take you away from football: “People outside of the game may think that they would love to be a footballer but I don’t think they realise how hard the training regime is and the lengths we have to go to. Of course, there are the rewards of the money, the cars and other nice things. But football can be very stressful so it’s nice to have the kids. They don’t keep me up too late at night but they are very energetic. My little boy is brainwashed about football but I am sure when he grows up he will do what he wants to do.”
Jones’ rise to prominence has also ensured Sunderland have become one of his homeland s most popular teams — thanks partly to his somersaulting goal celebrations. “When I was watching football when I was growing up in Trinidad, I used to watch a lot of La Liga and Serie A,” Jones added. “Aston Villa and Manchester United were big and we heard about most them. It was all about Dwight and Newcastle because of Shaka Hislop and we used to hear about Liverpool because of John Barnes who was born in Jamaica. But Sunderland are now big back home because of Stern John, Dwight, me and Carlos. For the people back home, they don’t know what Sunderland and the area is about. It will be nice to teach them a bit about this culture. Hopefully I will be able to show them about the history, such as why they (Sunderland fans) are called ‘Mackems’.”