Kenwyne Jones: Mercurial striker can be matchwinner - if his head is right

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The Independent Online

Steve Bruce called him an unfulfilled talent while John Terry insisted he was the best aerial operator in the Premier League. Even Tony Pulis has been forced to throw his trademark baseball cap to the turf this season in frustration, claiming that if consistency was in his armoury, he would be chasing the Champions’ League.

Kenwyne Jones is a player that continues to polarise opinion, an enigma who will test the patience of his managers and team-mates. Since his club-record £8 million move from Sunderland in August, he has been brilliant and infuriating. But a glaring miss against Blackpool last weekend apart, he appears to be rediscovering the form that once had Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur coveting envious glances in his direction.

It is not only his colleagues who find him difficult. He is not an easy interviewee, evading personal questions with a mixture of indignation and amusement. He delights in pointing out “misinformation”, though there are a few facts he will not dispute.

As a youngster growing up in Trinidad, he rejected the opportunity to follow his father into the Army and jetted around Europe on trial at clubs including Manchester United and Rangers. He became a father at the age of 18 before Southampton offered him a contract in 2004. Seven years later, he will reach arguably the pinnacle of his career in this country when he plays in the FA Cup Final on Saturday. It has been quite a capricious journey.

“I am a spiritual person and from a very young age you have challenges and things before you,” he said. “People might say it’s a Caribbean thing being laidback and we act as if there is nothing on tomorrow but it is funny.

“The thing is you might be in a situation where the bank is going to foreclose on your house tomorrow and there is no way of getting out. The most you can do is just sleep like a king – you can’t do anything about tomorrow because it is going to happen.”

Jones, now 26, has recovered from a difficult divorce off the field to rediscover his form in time for Roberto Mancini and Co. He has four goals in the last five games and should present the greatest threat to Manchester City’s burning desire for silverware.

He is revelling in the us-against-them mentality that Pulis, his manager, has used to such galvanising effect. “If we won every game 10-0 next season, we’d still be called boring Stoke,” said Jones. “I don’t know where it comes from, you tell me – you’re the journalist.

“It is sometimes nice to watch paint dry, you know that? But this is a big occasion for everyone and we are looking forward to it. Like any kid growing up you’d watch it, but that is only just watching it on TV. It’s a massive difference being a part of it.”