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Kenwyne Jones, Roy Keane and Nkosi Blackman (2001).It is a moment he has relived on many occasions since. When Kenwyne Jones collapsed to the floor after a collision with goalkeeper David James in England’s June friendly in Port of Spain, the Trinidad & Tobago striker still winces at the pain.
“It was like a conscious surgery,” recalled Jones at Sunderland’s Academy of Light training complex yesterday, three appearances into his comeback since that horrific summer nightmare.

“All I can compare it to would be a surgeon cutting away your skin while you’re laid there, conscious and without any pain relief. I actually felt everything tearing away inside.”

In a split second Jones had torn his medial ligament and cruciate ligaments, while also suffering joint bruising and flapping meniscus, the two half-moon shaped pieces of cartilage that keep the knee stable. Or to put it more simply, it could not have been any worse.

After returning to Wearside for further tests, Sunderland’s physio Pete Friar was among those to have indicated that he had never see anything like it. Jones had been left coming to terms with the very real prospect that he would not figure at all in the Premier League this season.

“It was not really a suggestion, it was 70 per cent a possibility that I would miss the whole season,” he said. “From the early tests that was the diagnosis.

But thanks to some good prayer it wasn’t the case.

It was basically down to God.

“I wasn’t really worried about my whole career. The worst case scenario was missing the whole season, it was not my career.

“When I got the injury I knew it was bad, I just didn’t know how bad. It was a relief to be out for a shorter period of time.”

The worst now, however, is over. Jones made his third successive appearance against Chelsea on Saturday – his first start – and, in his first in-depth interview since his comeback, he often paused to take in the magnitude of the relief he felt when he returned to action in the win over Newcastle ten days ago.

While recalling the amount of work and loneliness he encountered on his way back to recovery, however, his strong faith clearly played a prominent role in his rehabilitation.

“I had probably the worst tear you could have on your medial and the worst tear you could have on your cruciate.

“Either by itself would have been six months. With both injuries combined I was looking at 2009-2010.

“Thanks to God I was fortunate to heal quite well,” said Jones.

“My faith is what got me through. I was praying more than normal, about four times a day.

“Some people wait until they have an injury because they don’t want something bad to happen.

“I pray all of the time but it does intensify more once you realise that you have something to drive towards, something you want to get back to doing that you love.”

While he would obviously never wish to go through the last six months of his injury torture again, Jones makes no secret of the warmth he felt when he emerged as a 57th minute substitute against Newcastle, as the Sunderland supporters belted out their appreciation when he entered the pitch.

But the 24-year-old, a £6m signing from Southampton 15 months ago whose stock has been on the rise since, is still not entirely convinced his performance levels are ready to reach their peak again.

“To the fans I look like I’m back and I’m already back to myself again because I’m running around,” said Jones, who has just a small scar, the size of a five-pence piece, remaining on his right knee after key hole surgery.

“But to myself I don’t feel like what I used to feel like. In a couple of months, couple of weeks, maybe I will get back to that.

“On the pitch I can’t do certain things, I can’t flip my foot and I know that.

“I’m fit enough to play, run about, but a fully fit Kenwyne Jones, fully confident is a little time away yet.

“Fans have to remember that I had my leg in a cast for seven weeks to help it heal.

My muscles had stopped working and my leg was like a pin. I have to slowly work on things.

“I was looking forward to the return, I was in the gym and at home marking down the days to it.

“When I came back it was incredible. The feeling I expected when I returned was magnified ten times over when I actually did.

“It was a great, great feeling coming back against Newcastle.”