Looking through my video archives these last few weeks, I saw time fly before me. On one tape, Zinedine Zidane has nearly a full head of hair and playing in the colours of Bourdeaux, on another, he is fitted in the black stripes of Juventus and then on yet another, he is the bald maestro of Real Madrid, passing the ball to a Luiz Figo who I had just seen wearing the blue and red of Barcelona.
Patrice Evra, who seems to be wearing the red of Manchester United forever, was on one of those tapes too. But this was a younger man, less filled out and wearing the red and white strip of the French club Monaco as they got to the 2004 Champions League final. And then there was Ronaldo, the original one, slim, speedy, wondrous with the ball at his feet, and winning a Cup Winners Cup for Barca.
There was an assortment of others who I saw—Roberto Donadoni, Didier Deschamps, Frank Rijkaard, Antonio Conte, Roberto Di Matteo, Gianfranco Zola—all of them now men on the sidelines, coaching clubs and countries. But just yesterday, they were the stars of the game, the ones winning and losing the titles.
The footage was a reminder of how quickly life can change on us and how fluid the modern game has become, the top players spanning the range of the top clubs of Europe in a matter of years. The career of the modern-day player is like one of those school bags with numerous compartments, each section representing a spell with a different club.
If you looked into just one “compartment,” it would be difficult to appreciate the whole package—the full value of a player’s career. For example, studying the periods that Patrick Vieira and Rivaldo spent at AC Milan, would not at all give you a full appreciation of the players they were. You would have had to see them at Arsenal, in the case of Vieira, and Barcelona in the case of Rivaldo to get the real story.
Glimpsing Kenwyne Jones playing for the Soca Warriors this year, one also gets the sense that he too is moving into a different compartment, another phase of his career.
Here is a talented fellow. For his height alone, he was a standout when he played in the Secondary Schools Football League for St Anthony’s College. And he really played—all over the field—from defence to midfield and attack, an above average utility player at that level, whose versatility made him outstanding in a “Tigers” side that swept all titles before them in the 2002 season. In what is still the largest winning score in an InterCol final, Jones got a double playing from midfield as the Tigers picked Naparima College apart 6-0.
That goal-scoring ability would eventually determine the direction his career would take as he moved from hometown team Point Fortin Civic Centre to W Connection and Joe Public in the T&T Pro League and then to England where he has plied his trade with first Southampton, then Sheffield Wednesday in a loan spell, and then with Sunderland and his current club, Stoke City.
The English sides liked Jonesy’s pace, and as his slender frame became more sturdy, he became more of a presence in the penalty box and a real threat in the air. However, Jones’ time in the Premier League has not been as spectacular as probably he would have liked.
The British like their players to “work hard for the team,” which usually means they want to see them hustling up and down the pitch showing lots of “work rate.” But Jones has not been that type. He is no Carlos Tevez or Wayne Rooney either with or without the ball. Sometimes he could look ponderous in the box, his first touch not being the strongest part of his game.
Steve Bruce, his manager at Sunderland, eventually grew tired of waiting for his Trini acquisition to really blossom; so in 2010, Jones shed one set of red stripes for another. Under Tony Pulis, as under Bruce, big Kenwyne had his moments, those little patches where the goals would flow, and then suddenly, they would dry up. So far in 110 appearances for Stoke he has netted just 26 times.
His scoring career with the Soca Warriors has also not been prolific. The baby of the squad that went to the World Cup in 2006, Jones has become the main hope in front of goal in the years since then for a side that has desperately needed penetration. But he has not been able to supply it. However, this year has been different. Quite different.
In the very new season in England, Jones has already scored a hat-trick. And at the CONCACAF Gold Cup back in July, the T&T captain led his side to the quarter-finals, getting two goals himself. It was not the strikes against El Salvador and Honduras that got the attention only. It was also the pace and the energy Jones brought to the T&T attack which caught the eye; the sense of danger he engendered. It was a different Kenwyne Jones people were seeing. That Gold Cup showing evidently was not an optical illusion.
More than once on Monday, I was being asked if I saw the lob with which Jones beat the Saudi Arabia goalkeeper. The questioners were bubbling. Excited. Almost disbelieving. It was almost as if they did not think their captain capable of such invention and delicate touch. Such class. But Jones ended the match with two goals in a 3-1 win, and left the OSN Cup with three in two matches, making it five goals in his last six games for T&T. In the context of his international career, Jones has never been in better touch.
There seems a greater sense of purpose about his work inside and outside the penalty area. A new attitude. Jones’ physical gifts are now being seen to better effect. It is as if there is a different man playing under the dreadlocks compared to the years previous.
Now just shy of 29, maybe at we haven’t seen the full Jones package yet.