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If Rafael Benítez had had his way in January then Kenwyne Jones would be emerging from Anfield's famous tunnel on Sunday in the red shirt of Liverpool.

What with Fernando Torres's problems with injury and the lack of quality strikers in his squad, the Liverpool manager wanted to sign Jones in the transfer window but the club did not want to meet Sunderland's £10 million valuation.

For Sunderland the projected transfer was like a bad New Year's hangover that just got worse by the day and with a week left before the the close of the window Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, snapped, describing the manner of Benítez's pursuit of his player as "hugely disrespectful".

Sport on television "What happened is that January was January and now it's March and it's all over," Jones said. "That's all that happened. However long the transfer windows have been in effect there has always been something like that happening at some club. It's nothing new, the same old script."

Jones's desire to put the whole episode behind him is understandable. The speculation came halfway through a winless streak of 14 games for Sunderland, a sequence that pushed them towards relegation. "It was like we started tripping down some stairs and we just kept falling down and down until we hit the floor," he said.

Jones has helped lift the team off the floor and get them climbing again. For the last two months he had started to show the kind of form that brought him to Benítez's attention last season. A hip injury has kept him out of the last two games but he is optimistic of returning to the side today, a side who, after five games without defeat, are finally beginning to move in the right direction again.

Not that the wings of Jones's ambition have been clipped. "Like any footballer you don't want to be a fixture," he said. "What you want is to achieve something. You want to be one of the greats of football and win something. Some people, like me so far, have not been able to win anything throughout their career. You want to be in the place where you can win the big trophies and all the stuff that matters.

"All the attention? It's a pat on the back for me that I'm doing something that people recognise and they want. That itself propels me to keep working harder and keep doing the things I've been doing. Hopefully I can continue that until my knees go bad and I can't play any more, that I can fulfil the dream of playing at the highest level, winning things."

At 25 Jones has learned to seize every opportunity. As a promising Trinidad youth international his life was completely changed by the birth of his son Isaiah, when he was still just 18. "Having a kid on its own is an experience but having a kid at that age when you think you have your whole life ahead of you... it doesn't stop your life, it just propels you in a direction. It propelled me in a direction and I thank God for that."

Jones – "decently smart" – had full scholarship offers from some 20 American universities but feared college life would kill his hunger for football. So he went on a punishing series of trials with European clubs, even spending a week with Manchester United. "David Beckham was still there, Juan Sebastian Veron, Dwight Yorke, Laurent Blanc, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roy Keane – it was the biggest experience I'd had in my career so far."

Like so many other trials, it did not work out and, with the responsibility towards his family, Jones imposed a deadline to get a contract. If not he would go into the army, like his schoolfriend and former Sunderland team-mate Carlos Edwards.

"I'd been on trial at a lot of places, probably three months at a time. It wasn't nice being away from home for that long at that age and living out of my suitcase. I didn't want it to drag on for me. I wanted to make a decision and have something steady happening. For me it was do or die, now or never."

That determination resulted in a move to Southampton in 2004. It took a while for Jones to get into the kind of physical shape needed in English football but when he did, catalysed by a productive loan move to Sheffield Wednesday, he emerged as an intimidatingly powerful striker. In 2007 Keane took him to Sunderland for £6 million, where his rapid progress continued, John Terry describing him as the best he had faced in the air in the Premier League.

His playing style has earned comparisons with Didier Drogba and it is the paucity of players with those kind of capabilities that make Jones a coveted player. "Thankfully I'm 25 and not 32 [Drogba's age].

I guess it's good to be in that mode because it fits me into a certain script: necessity to demand. You don't want to be superfluous. You don't want to be like everyone else. Thankfully I'm different. That's what people want and I hope it will stay like that for a long time."

Kenwyne Jones was speaking at Lumley Junior School after taking part in one of Sunderland's Family Learning Through Football sessions as part of the Premier League's Places for Players scheme.