Kenwyne Jones has warned Arsenal they’ll be facing the same old Stoke today – Cup final or no Cup final.
The Gunners have come to look on The Britannia Stadium as one of the grounds they hate going to after losing in two of three trips since Tony Pulis’s side won promotion.
But if Arsene Wenger is hoping that Stoke’s players will be easing up to protect themselves against injuries a week ahead of their Wembley date with Manchester City he’s in for a disappointment.
And giant Trinidad and Tobago striker Jones, in a rich vein of form with four goals in five games, has told his team mates that’s the best way to get ready for the game of their lives.
The £8million club record signing from Sunderland insisted: “The big thing is that you cannot protect yourself from getting injured so there’s no point to try.
“Some players try not to push too hard and then get hurt anyway. Others think they’ll train normally and play and then it can still happen to them too.
“What I’m going to do is train hard like I would normally, relax when I get time off, and then whatever happens, it happens. That’s what’s best for everybody because as a footballer you just roll on instinct and that’s the best way to stay.”
Jones has bounced right back to form after struggling in the middle of the season but insists that at 26 he’s still got plenty more to give.
He said: “The goals have been coming, but I know that I have more in me. Sometimes you can be on your best form and not scoring, it’s strange.
“I am just happy to be on the scoresheet right now leading up to an FA Cup final and hopefully it will continue then.
“I think as a player from the very first day you always have to think that the best is yet to come, right up to the day when you retire.
Stoke City's Kenwyne Jones prefers to do his talking on the pitch.
By Jamie Jackson (The Observer).
Yet ask about Tony Pulis, his manager, who says that he can be "out of this world" on his day, and Jones offers what proves to be a regulation spiky response: "I might do interviews but I don't pay attention to journalists. Everyone [is] always trying to make somebody in the mould of someone else. I really and truly don't pay attention."
How about John Terry's declaration that he is the best header of the ball in the Premier League? "If he said that – I never read it, it was told to me. All you can do is play football. You can get that compliment and it's fine, but it's just words," he says.
What of taking on Roberto Mancini's side? "Again," Jones says, sighing, "Manchester City is a very big football club, they've a massive fan base, resources, and world-class players. So it is going to be a test. We're just looking forward to doing our bit."
Producing what is required has been Stoke's way throughout the current campaign. After securing a fourth Premier League season since returning the club to the big time, Pulis now plots how to win their first FA Cup final and take the old pot back to the Potteries. A 5-0 shellacking of Bolton Wanderers in the semi-final at Wembley was as resounding a result as could be hoped for. Yet, predictably perhaps, Jones is unsure if this has altered the "boring Stoke" label the team attracts.
"If we won every game 10-0 next season we'd still be called 'boring Stoke'. It's not going to make a difference," he says. "I don't know where it comes from, you tell me. Everyone says it, but the thing is you report it, it's always there to read. We won 5-0, so what does that say?" Jones then offers his own answer: "It's sometimes nice to watch paint dry, you know that?"
The back story of the boy from Trinidad's Point Fortin is worth a glance. Not that Jones is keen to discuss it. His father, Pamphile, and his uncle Philbert inspired him to play football. While Jones took his back-flip goal celebration from Philbert, who was a star for the Trinidad & Tobago squad that nearly qualified for the 1990 World Cup, Pamphille was in the army, a career Jones considered.
"That was a long time ago. I've told this story many times. It wasn't mandatory, just a personal choice, making decisions in life, either you do one thing or you do the next, just for the sake of it," Jones says.
What attracted you to the army? "Nothing attracts you to the army," he says, indignantly. "I don't think anyone grows up thinking: 'I love the army.' It's still a route into playing football in Trinidad while having job security. It's not like I wanted to fight. It has nothing to do with not liking uniforms. My dad was in the army, it wasn't like I hated or didn't like authority."
To make it as a professional Jones decided against a college scholarship in the United States and instead hawked himself around Europe on trial. "This is really going back in history, but I had a few [trials] in England and Scotland and another in Holland," he says.
Try-outs at Manchester United and Middlesbrough in 2002 and later at West Ham United and Rangers came to nothing before he landed at Southampton seven years ago. Yet suggest that Jones took the harder option in declining college and his ire is sparked again: "I don't think it's the harder road. Because if you go to college you tend to lose that fire for playing football."
Finally, Jones played for his country against England in the 2006 World Cup. How will the Cup final compare? "Making the World Cup is a great achievement, playing in the Premier League is a great achievement: they all rank in the same place."
Discussion over, a photographer inquires if he can take a quick snap. "No," Jones says. Then he explains he agreed only to speak to the written press. Otherwise, he adds: "I would have told that lot to f**k off."