Twenty-seven year-old Trinidadian star footballer Kenwyne Joel Jones, the Striker for English Premier League club Stoke City was in Guyana as the Guinness brand ambassador during the inaugural Caribbean Guinness Street Challenge and yesterday afternoon paid a visit to ‘Back Circle’ in East Ruimveldt, the area from which the Guyana team comes from.
The 6 feet 2 inches Jones held a motivational session with an eager group of under-15 footballers mainly from GFC, Santos and the Back Circle area.
Jones began his football career with Joe Public in T&T and moved to W Connection in 2002 before representing T&T as a utility player the next year against Finland. In 2004, he joined Southampton, where he was converted to a striker before being loaned to Sheffield Wednesday and Stoke City during the 2004–05 Season.
In 2007 he joined Sunderland for £6 million where he spent three seasons before signing for Stoke City on a four-year-deal for a club record fee of £8 million in August 2010.
One of Jones’ task as the Guinness Brand Football Ambassador is to travel around the Caribbean promoting Street Football and encouraging players of all ages with mentorship and inspirational talks.
Since ‘Back Circle’ are the 2011 Guinness in the Street National Football Champions in Guyana that area was chosen for Jones’ talk yesterday and also as the area that a street Football playing arena would be build if team Guyana won the Caribbean Guinness Street Challenge which concluded at the National Park tarmac last night.
Jones, who was born in Point Fortin, Trinidad to Lydia and Pamphile and attended St. Anthony’s College in Trinidad along with his future Sunderland team-mate Carlos Edwards, told the youths that belief in your dreams, discipline in every area of your life and hard work were the keys to success.
His uncle, Philbert Jones was also a forward for the T&T Strike Squad that came within a point of qualifying for the 1990 World Cup and was a similar player to Kenwyne both in style and celebration and Kenwyne told the gathering that he was at one time just like the children present; playing Football in the Street with nothing but a passion and a dream.
Jones had trials at Manchester United and Middlesbrough in 2002, and further trials at West Ham United and Rangers in 2004 and revealed in an interview that he had to travel around Europe looking for a football club, or face a career in the Trinidad army.
“It was hard because I’d just had my son and it was make it… or join the army. I had a family to support and at that time, it was either this is it… or I go into the services. I was ready for that life.” He explained.
Today Jones is just as imposing off the field as on it and said he hoped that someday he would be sitting somewhere watching some the kids present yesterday playing on TV.
“It’s not easy to be a professional Footballer. It looks nice on TV but it takes hard work and discipline to be successful at the highest level. I would wake up to train at six in the morning and then go to school. I would then practice during the lunch break, train again in the afternoon and then make sure I do my homework. I did this for about six years. It was hard but you need to work hard on Football and your school work if you want to be an International Footballer,” Jones said.
“If you want to be a doctor, Lawyer, Cricketer, Footballer…whatever you want to become it takes discipline and hard work because nothing comes easy. Never give up on your dreams even when you fail the first time and people discourage you. Discipline and a positive mind help you in every area of life especially when things don’t go your way and that is very, very important if you want to be successful,” Jones said.
Jones was married to Avalon and has three children: Isaiah, and twins Arianne and Kaelyn but went through a ‘messy’ divorce in March last year which affected his performance at Stoke’s at the beginning of his signing. But he rebounded to repay the faith his Manager Tony Pulis had in him.
“We need goals in our team and we also need strong competition among our strikers if we are to continue improving at this level.”Kenwyne will give us that. It’s no secret that I am one of his biggest admirers. He did a smashing job for us when he was here on loan. “He was very young back then but I believe that he has the best years ahead of him as a top striker.” said Pulis at Jones’ signing.
Banks DIH Guinness Brand Manager Lee Baptiste said he felt the inaugural Caribbean competition in Guyana was very good for exposure and branding and was a great way of giving back to the community, especially at the grass root level.
“Due to the high cost to stage the competition here (approximately $5Million) we had to charge an entrance fee for the first time which might have resulted in the crowds being less than we anticipated. If Guyana wins tonight (last night) we have already spoken to the Sports Minister and Minister Benn to try and get some land in the vicinity of Back Circle once it’s available, to set up the Street Football facility,” Baptiste informed.
“A lot of people think that because this is street football and involves many grass root areas, discipline is not important but it is very important. I am pleased with the level of discipline from the players and fans. Our National Guinness Street competition is fixed for November and the competition should be keen since an added incentive is now making the Guyana team and traveling overseas,” Baptiste said.