Kenwyne Jones has been called a "Didier Drogba in the making" by George Burley, "the best striker in the Premiership" by Sunderland boss Roy Keane and "the best in the air in the Premiership" by Chelsea captain John Terry. Even so, the 23-year-old Point Fortin-born striker and heir to Dwight Yorke remains strikingly and humbly unaffected by all the acclaim.
FIFA.com caught up with the brawny, jet-heeled forward to chat about his first season in the English Premier League in which he scored seven goals and grabbed ten assists to help keep the Wearsiders in the top flight with a 15th-place finish. Now in his close season, the conversation turned towards Trinidad and Tobago's approaching entrance into the qualifying rounds for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ and his fond memories of the Soca Warriors' first world finals at Germany 2006.
FIFA.com: Kenwyne, how do you feel about Trinidad and
Tobago's chances of making it back to the FIFA World Cup in
South Africa in 2010?
Kenwyne Jones: This time around it is going to be even tougher than when we did it in 2006. The expectations will be heavy on us this time and the fans will be expecting us to make it again. That's a tricky situation. Also, we've had a lot of veteran players retire recently, like Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy and Shaka Hislop, so there are a lot of fresh faces in the squad. We're going to give it our best shot and I think we have the talent to return to the World Cup.
Your first test is next month against island minnows
Bermuda. Do you feel any added pressure as you will be big
favourites to win?
Sure, we will be favourites up against Bermuda. But that doesn't mean we've won the games already. This is an opponent who won two games to get the chance to play us and we need to respect them and get on with our business. They may not be the biggest name in the world, but they will be hungry to push us.
Have you yet had the chance to train with new national team
coach Francisco 'Pacho' Maturana? He has some big shoes to
fill, taking over for Leo Beenhakker...
Surely he does. I have had the chance to train with the new boss and he's got a brilliant way about him. He knows the game of football very well, he knows how to get his points across and his record speaks for itself. He's been to the World Cup before [with Colombia] and knows how to get back.
You have a big friendly game coming up with England on 1
June. Do you see it as a chance to take revenge for the loss you
suffered to them in Germany in 2006?
The friendly with England is going to be a great experience. It's not about revenge for the game at the World Cup because these are two very different teams. That said, we will be very motivated to beat them and to prove our worth against a good side.
You'll be going up against some familiar faces in the
Yes, it will be a chance for me to play against some of the guys I know very well from the Premiership. It will be a true test for us and we will know where we stand after the final whistle blows.
One of those familiar faces, John Terry, recently called
you 'the best strikers in the air in the Premier League'.
What do you think about that?
It's nice to have people say nice things about you, but it's very important not to get caught up in kind words and flattery.
How has it been playing this season for Roy Keane at
Sunderland? How far do you think he can take the side?
Roy Keane is a demanding coach and he has done a great job so far. The last thing you want to do as a player is disappoint him and he has a great way of motivating us players. We'll see how far he can take us, but I can't say enough about what he's done up to this point.
You played as a centre-back for T&T at the FIFA U-17
World Cup in 2001. Does your knowledge of that position help you as
I don't think it's much of an advantage, but is gives me a better insight into the duties and instincts of a striker. With the knowledge of trying to stop strikers as a centre-back I can read the game maybe a little better and it might make me a more effective attacking player than I would be otherwise.
What is your best memory of T&T's appearance at
The greatest memory for me was simply making it to the World Cup, because most players don't ever get that chance. It's a joy and an honour to play for my country and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. Once we reached Germany, we did a decent job too, so all around, the memories are fairly positive.
How did it feel to be named your country's player of
the Year for 2007?
There are very few words to describe the honour of being singled out for service to your home country. I was thrilled when I got my first cap, I was thrilled when we made it to the World Cup and now I am thrilled to be named player of the year. All I can say is 'thanks' to the people who supported me.