Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones, the only Trinidad and Tobago player currently in the English Premier League, is on vacation in T&T after enjoying a good season with the Potters.
The highlight of his 2010-2011 campaign was playing in last month's FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium in London, where Stoke lost 1-0 to Manchester City.
Last Friday, Jones visited his alma mater, St Anthony's College in Diego Martin, to present them with some uniforms. The Express caught up with the big striker to chat about his season, T&T football, and the players' court battle with the T&T Football Federation (TTFF), among other issues.
What's your favourite football team and who is your favourite player?
My favourite team is AC Milan. That's been like that since I was young. My favourite player at the moment is Messi. I just love his way of playing football and his battle with adversity, because everyday he has someone trying to take him down and he rises above the challenge.
What are your goals for next season?
At this point in time, I'm relaxing and only looking forward to pre-season training. But every year it's going to be the same: trying to do better than you did the last time. Every year you try to do better than you did before and this year is no different.
How have you spent your vacation in T&T so far?
Since I've been back in Trinidad I've been up and down the Caribbean promoting the (Guinness) Street Football Challenge and I'm here (at St Anthony's) today just giving something back. But every day is something new, getting requests to visit the team, speak to youths. It's important to do all of that, because speaking to the young people is necessary. Sometimes you need to be reachable and be able to help them, because other than their parents, school is where they spend most of their time, so being able to speak to them is important.
How do you manage family and football?
Well, it is hard work all round. Just like football, it might look easy, but it's a lot of hard work. Life in general is hard work. You just have to stick at it and work and try and manage everything you do. Manage your time and try to get as much places as possible and within the time, still try to keep time for yourself. It's hard all-round, but I do try to manage it.
How much are you looking forward to playing with the national team?
When I was young, it was a dream of mine to play for the national team, to represent the country to the highest level. From the day I started to now, it's no different. Until the day I retire, I will want to represent my country. Whether I'm selected or not is a different story. But for now, I just want to represent on all fronts, and keep the flag of Trinidad and Tobago flying high.
You must be disappointed that T&T are not at the CONCACAF Gold Cup?
It is sad, because I grew (with) Trinidad and Tobago being in the Gold Cups, being in the Shell Cups, and I too played a part in being in the Gold Cup. The last times that they weren't there it is disappointing because you would want to see your country and your team doing well, and being on the highest levels of football. It was disappointing but, hopefully, in the coming years we could rebuild and try and make it back (there) again.
What's your take on national coach Otto Pfister?
I have spoken to the coach at length and his philosophy, his ideas are pretty strong. He has a vast number of years and experience and he's done well for himself. Him coming to T&T, I know it's a new challenge for us, the country and the players, because we're going under a new coach again. Hopefully, we can come together to achieve the purpose for the near future, which is qualifying for the World Cup. We all have to step up and make Trinidad and Tobago better, in all sports.
Can T&T qualify for Brazil 2014?
Despite the troubles we have, I know we can do a lot better. Whether that is qualification or not, that is yet to be seen. At the same time, I know that we have it in us, as a country, as sports people. We have to realise that talent alone will not get us to that stage. We have to adopt that professional attitude right around Trinidad. Not just in football, in administration, in fan support, everything needs to be stepped up a level. We have to unify as a team and as a country and move forward from there.
Are you satisfied with the court matter vs the TTFF?
We're very happy. The only issue for us is having a promise delivered. Seeing that it has taken so long to happen is disappointing and discouraging, but we've got to the point where the result is in our favour and I'm happy for that fact. So, hopefully, now we can just move forward and things could be better, because for far too long we've been building up a team and starting and then breaking it down again.
Any word for the fans over T&T's poor performances?
I'm playing in a league where it is difficult times for the smallest to the largest of people, but where football is concerned it is a passion for them, it is pride to support their team, their country on all fronts; win lose or draw they are there supporting their team. For Trinidad and Tobago in that respect as a country, we have to do better. We had that incident where a small group of El Salvadorians were making more noise than the home crowd and nowhere in the world does that ever happen. We need to know that in order for this team to do well, they need that support to make them do well. If you don't have anyone to play for to showcase that talent, the level is not going to rise.