Keeping up with Jones

AP

Comparisons to Chelsea's Ivorian Didier Drogba are commonplace for Kenwyne Jones, as the 25-year-old has made a big impact since he swapped one island for another back in 2004. Over to Richard Brown.

A career that started life on the island of Trinidad with the team Joe Public may not be expected to reach the dizzy heights of the Barclays English Premier League.

But Sunderland's Kenwyne Jones has made the leap from Caribbean football to become one of the most feared and respected strikers in England.

Comparisons to Chelsea's Ivorian Didier Drogba are commonplace for Jones, as the 25-year-old has made a big impact since he swapped one island for another back in 2004.

It was with Southampton that his English adventure began with George Burley signing the raw winger for a nominal fee from W Connection — another team plying its trade in the Pro League of Jones' homeland.

At just 18, expectations were already being raised to Trinidad and Tobago's greatest ever player Dwight Yorke, but Southampton's newest signing was a long way from matching the composed genius of the former Aston Villa and Manchester United star.

Jones' main attributes were power and pace and Burley quickly moved him inside to a more direct and traditional striking role — and was soon rewarded for his foresight.

Following seven goals in seven games in a short loan spell at English Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, the 1.85 metres target man made his mark on the English south coast, making a total of 71 appearances and scoring 19 goals.

His performances soon attracted interest from elsewhere and Billy Davies' Derby were one of the first to test Southampton's resolve with a sizeable bid.

The Rams had just secured promotion to the Premier League and identified Jones as just the man to spearhead their attack in England's top flight.

However, despite a GBP5.5 million bid being lodged, the Saints hierarchy resisted, leaving Jones to go on strike.

Eventually, Sunderland upped the ante by offering an extra GBP500,000 and secured Jones' signature, leaving Davies to wonder what might have been as his side embarked on what was to become the worst season in Premier League history as they managed just one win on their way to 11 points back in 2007/08.

In contrast, Jones' career was really starting to take shape as Roy Keane busily constructed a Sunderland team to his liking.

A large criticism of the Irishman's tenure on Wearside was the ever revolving door of players coming in and out of the club, but Jones' talents have been warmly welcomed by the Sunderland faithful, who have championed his name over the past three seasons.

Alongside England international Darren Bent, who was signed last summer, current boss Steve Bruce has — on paper at least — one of the most formidable strike pairings in the Premier League and one admirer of the Trinidadian is Chelsea skipper John Terry.

“Jones was fantastic and I have played against him twice now,” he once said.

“He is a very good player, very hard working and probably the best in the air in the entire Premier League, he really is that good.”

However, despite a bright start to the current campaign, things have not gone to plan and Sunderland are currently on a 14-game winless run in the EPL.

It leaves the Black Cats hovering dangerously close to the relegation zone, but Jones is adamant his side have the talents to steer their way to safety.

“We are not acting as though we are close to relegation — we are not really talking about relegation and it is not as though we are in the bottom three or anything like that,” admitted Jones.

He has three children with his wife Avalon.

Jones was once reportedly spotted at the wheel of a Mercedes SL65 — a car also apparently driven by Chelsea's Didier Drogba.

FACTFILE Name: Kenwyne Jones Position: Striker Club: Sunderland D.O.B: 05/10/1984 Trinidad and Tobago Caps: 45 Trinidad and Tobago Goals: 5

Trinidad and Tobago Debut: v Finland, January 2003

Moment to remember

Jones secured his status as his nation's star export by winning the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation's player of the year for 2007. A delighted Jones said: “A lot of big names have won this before and I never really thought about something like this happening to me.”

Moment to forget

Earlier this season, the normally placid striker picked up the first red card of his Sunderland career in a clash at West Ham, as Jones was dismissed for pushing Herita Ilunga in the face following a tough challenge.

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