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If Kenwyne Jones smiled any wider than he did at kick off last Saturday in Old Trafford, he might have split his own eardrums.


Just four years after making his Pro League debut for Vibe CT 105 W Connection as a central defender, the Trinidad and Tobago player was at the famous home ground of Manchester United in the colours of England Premier League club, Sunderland.

Jones was encouraged by his debut as well as the performance of his new teammates although Sunderland were edged 1-0 by the "Red Devils" on September 1.

"Considering my (lack of) match fitness and the fact that I was playing upfront on my own," Jones told the Sport Express, "I am very happy with my own performance and the showing we had.

"It gave me a sense of security to see that we could play like that and knowing that we could get better as the season goes on."

The Sunderland Football Club record states that Jones joined the club on Wednesday August 29 in a ·6 million pounds (TT$75.7 million) move from Southampton that also saw his compatriot, Stern John, head in the opposite direction.

If Jones seemed relaxed before kick off at Old Trafford, it might be because Manchester and England star defender Rio Ferdinand was not half as scary as the minefields he negotiated between Southampton and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) as he pursued his dream move into the English top flight.

Jones actually made his Premiership debut on January 22, 2005 when he was a late substitute in a 2-0 Southampton home win against Liverpool. He played once more for Southampton that season-he started but laboured in a 2-1 away defeat to Birmingham-before he was sent on loan as the south coast club fought unsuccessfully against relegation.

The Premier League offers a controversial two-year subsidy to relegated clubs, which is referred to as a "parachute payment", and softens the blow of the massive loss of earnings that follows their new Championship status.

Southampton should have received 5.6 million pounds for the 2005/06 and 2006/07 seasons. In contrast, the other Championship teams collect a mere ·900,000 pounds payment from television revenue.

The south coast team failed to make the financial advantage count though and, when the payments ended in May, they were forced to sell their best assets.

Gifted Welsh left back Gareth Bale was first out the blocks as he joined Premiership outfit, Tottenham, for ·5 million pounds on May 26 and, before the start of the new season, Jones also bid farewell to defenders Chris Baird and Pele who moved to Fulham and West Brom respectively.

Jones must have spent much of the pre-season waiting for his mobile 'phone to ring with news of a suitor.

On August 7, the six foot two striker finally heard of solid Premiership interest from Derby County, but it was not Southampton who told him and, once his paymasters knew that the "Soca Warrior" was tipped off, they reacted furiously by accusing Derby of an illegal approach.

Jones declined to share details about the tense three-week period that followed.

"It is not the right time to disclose what went on," he said. "I have a lot of respect for my old team and I still have a lot of friends there."

A source close to the player, though, suggested Jones was unhappy that Southampton and, in particular, club manager George Burley was unwilling to let him leave.

Burley, a former Premiership Manager of the Year with Ipswich Town, insisted that the player was too valuable to lose. In private, according to the source, he swore to the Southampton directors that Jones would not become hostile if he was denied a move to the Premiership.

Jones, who was injured at the start of the season, made his first 2007/08 outing on August 18 and scored Southampton's lone goal in a 2-1 loss away to Norwich.

Burley, according to the source, told his directors in another private meeting that Jones' goal was further proof of his commitment to Southampton. Jones, the source continued, was leaked news about Burley's statements to the board.

Jones subsequently handed in a transfer request on August 24 and refused to represent Southampton in their forthcoming game against Stoke City. Sunderland agreed a fee for his services within a week.

There was one final obstacle. Jones, a 2006 World Cup player, had not represented his country since last October after being "blacklisted" by the T&TFF as a result of a disagreement between players and administrators over bonus payments.

Last month, two T&TFF coaches, Michael McComie and Wim Rijsbergen, refused to write recommendations to assist in the work permit application of CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh teenager Lester Peltier. Peltier was eventually denied a work permit to join England Premiership club, Portsmouth.

Jones was not allowed to play in the 75 per cent of his country's matches and, although an active player in England, there was the possibility he might suffer the same fate if the T&TFF did not explain his international absences.

His concerns about the T&TFF's spitefulness did not appear to be misplaced.

"I was refused a letter by the president of the T&TFF," said Jones. "I had to turn to the president of Football Players association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT) for help. I think that FPATT letter was instrumental in my move."

Shaka Hislop, the FPATT president and Jones' World Cup teammate, confirmed that the young organisation felt compelled to support the talented player.

"FPATT stayed out of the situation with Lester Peltier because we felt, at the time, that it was a T&TFF and Jabloteh issue," said Hislop, "but we are keen observers. But, given that situation and considering their reluctance to come to the aid of Kenwyne, it seems to me that the T&TFF are unwilling to help anybody in Trinidad and Tobago football.

"We had to write in support of his application and were happy to do so because we feel he has been a great servant of Trinidad and Tobago football so far and will continue to do so in the future.

"We are willing to support any of our members in any way that we can."

Bizarrely, T&TFF president Oliver Camps contradicted both World Cup stars and denied that he was ever requested to support Jones' work permit application.

"I really don't know what you are talking about," Camps told the Sport Express. "I don't know anything about that."

Two days before the transfer window closed, though, the British Home Office granted Jones a new work permit and he was allowed to become a Sunderland player,

He insisted that he felt no animosity towards the T&TFF and was still anxious to represent his country again.

"I definitely want to be involved again," said Jones. "We must try our best to get back to where we were because we have fallen back about 20 steps since the last World Cup. For me, we should be in the World Cup every time it comes around."

Jones played from the start against England at the Germany World Cup and was a substitute against Paraguay. He is certain that his education at Sunderland would make him much better prepared for such challenging assignments in the future.

"I just want to learn as much as I can (at Sunderland)," he said. "When I look around at people like Dwight Yorke, (manager) Roy Keane and Andy Cole, I feel as though I am around football royalty.

"I think my experience here can only benefit me and Trinidad and Tobago football in the long run."

Jones was sympathetic to his friend and compatriot, John, who traded places with him after being dropped down the Sunderland pecking order as a result of his transfer. However, he insisted that they had not let it affect their relationship.

He was equally dismissive about the responsibility of his sizable transfer fee.

"People say it is a lot of money but I have no say in what a club pays for me," said Jones. "The fact that Sunderland paid so much tells me that they must rate me, but I am not really bothered by what the fee is."

Jones lives in a Sunderland hotel, at present, while his wife-he was married this June-and three children are stationed almost seven hours away on the south coast. He is trying to find a home that they can all move to as soon as possible in the north east city.

"It is all part of the job as a footballer," he said.

Sometimes the business on the field can be the most straightforward. No wonder, he looked so happy at Old Trafford.