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KENWYNE Jones fears football will feel the bite of the recession for years to come if more Premier League clubs don't follow Sunderland's lead and cut season ticket prices.

The striker, who was set to become a soldier before he made it as a footballer, has warned that supporters will turn away from the game unless clubs start to "give fans some love back."

Niall Quinn is one of several top flight chairmen who have slashed prices for next season, with Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe leading the praise for their ultra cheap £19 season ticket for kids, and adults for £350.

Coupled with cutting prices, Jones is convinced Ricky Sbragia is building a squad that can emulate Peter Reid's success at the club which included two seventh placed finishes.

Jones said: "We cannot risk football dying because fans turn away because they can no longer afford it. That is a risk, I fear it could happen. In the current financial crisis, you still want to keep football alive.

"At Sunderland we have taken the right steps. I will not say it as cheesy as giving back to the people, but we have recognised these times and the board and owner have seen we have to ease back on the prices.

"People are losing their jobs. A friend from up here phoned me yesterday to say he was losing his job. It is a time when you need to take care of the fans.

"When you have times like this, you look at the leisure things in your budget and might cut back. You might not want money going out when it could be used for something more important. Our club looked at the situation and found it fitting to do a reduction.

"Even though the stadium has not been filled, we hope this will get more people in. We'd rather have a full stadium and charge less. That can only help our club grow, and help the players play.

"The more fans who commit and come with us, the more we will be able to build. Sunderland is a club that needs to be in a stable position. We have the ability to be up there. If a reduction gets more fans in I welcome that.

"Just because you are a footballer doesn't mean you don't have friends from all areas of life. We ARE regular people. We just do a different job. Not everyone was blessed with the same talent. I have family who have been made redundant. Close friends redundant. For the people around us we know their situations and try to help. We are not oblivious to it.

"All the times you have a signing session, once or twice a year, I like to stay for hours. The fans who come to them deserve our gratitude and it is important that as players we keep their spirits alive, make them feel it is their club. You want to give them that sort of love back. At the end of the day they keep filling up the stadiums and coming back to see us."

Jones has an intriguing story to tell about his sport mad upbringing in Trinidad. Typically for a man with a towering physique he excelled at everything - including netball.

But the giant Trinidad and Tobago striker says anyone who thinks it is a girls' game is wrong - it was all part of an ultra-competitive sports-fest in his neighbourhood that meant you had to be good at sport to be popular.

Jones says he had the perfect childhood preparation for becoming a top flight strike star, as dozens of his mates and neighbours got together for battles in all sports.

He said: "I was good at running, football, basketball and cricket. Netball even! Against the girls! But there were also men netball competitions. Some people think it is a ladies sport but it is not, I can tell you. It is a blow out. Rough and tumble and very competitive!

"I was good at everything pretty much. I got sucked in to the lot. In our neighbourhood, you had to be good at sport. No1: your mates would not pick you if you couldn't play these sports! No2: If you can't play you had to sit and watch and that is no fun. All the streets would come out, lots of kids.

"Running, cricket, my street against your street, my mates against your mates. If you did not practice to be part of that you would pretty much be sulking all the time! You HAD to learn sports. No fun if you didn't.

Jones was born in Point Fortin and went to St. Anthony's College in Trinidad. He added: "It is a real pity kids don't get out now and play like that. Kids want to grow up so quickly, they forget how to be a child. Sometimes their parents don't let them.

"Sometimes when they get to ten they want to start going out. I did not start thinking about girls until I was 17! Before that I was just sports focused. Every night, organising ourselves, enjoying our friendship.

"Times have changed a bit. There is a fear or people steeling kids and stuff. But hopefully that sort of spirit can be kept alive."

Jones had netted nine in 23 appearances since coming back from his knee ligament injury. Physically he says he's as strong and quick as even, but admits having to "overcome doubts" in his mind after his six month recovery.

He may be at the top of the game now, but seven years ago he touted himself around clubs having trials at Manchester United, Middlesbrough and Rangers before getting his chance at Southampton.

At Sunderland he has become a figurehead for Quinn's ambitions, especially after rejecting Spurs advances in January.

He added: "First we want to maintain our Premiership status. Top ten this season would be real progress. This club had two seasons in seventh place not so long ago we want to be back there.

"But as a club or a person I can't take anything for granted. My mum and dad always instilled the fear of god in me. They say: No matter who you are, what you become, what you attain in life, you should never change from the person that you are.. As fast as all the good things come to you, it could go.

"My mum Lydia was a homemaker, my dad Pamphile was a soldier. I was about to be a soldier. Fortunately for me I was blessed, one of my trials came good! That was seven years ago. Then a revolution happens. I don't feel lucky, I feel blessed."

Jones, 24, says he has Faith, but adds: "It is about having a relationship with God. The whole world gets caught up in this: My religion is better than yours, my God is the one. We all lose focus in serving a God. Having that relationship is all you can do."

His family also keep him grounded, and son Isaiah, six, is already showing remarkable football knowledge: "Isaiah is brain washed. Football is all he sees. He knows a lot about football. A LOT. About teams, players, stuff you would never expect him to know for his age."

Simple family pleasures also leave him feeling proud. "Our twins Arianne and Kaelyn are just three and when they see me on tv shout: "Daddy". It is good support!"