Our Stoke-related Cult Hero is Kenwyne Jones.
With a chaotic end to January done and dusted Sunderland now look ahead to a welcome return to the traditional 3pm Saturday afternoon kickoff, making the trip to "fortress" Britannia to face Tony Pulis' Stoke City. The Potters have had an annoying habit over recent years of taking what many would consider to be our deadwood, Danny Collins,
Rory Delap, Dean Whitehead et al off our hands and somehow managing to put together an effective side that has performed minor miracles in the Premier League. Of course many will criticise their style of play but at the end of the day it's the points on the board that win prizes.
Today's Cult Hero is one of the men that swapped the red and white stripes of Sunderland for those of Stoke. A striker who on his day could be a handful for any centre half. When it wasn't his day he was about as useful as a ham sandwich at a Barmitzvah.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Kenwyne Jones!Kenwyne was born and raised in Point Forlin, Trinidad and Tobago and actually attended college with another former Sunderland man, Carlos Edwards. The towering striker's footballing career began with some
fantastically named clubs in Trinidad including a number of appearances for Joe Public before a two year spell with W Connection FC. Whilst plying his trade in his homeland Kenwyne had numerous trials with British clubs such as Manchester United, Middlesbrough, West Ham and Rangers. Jones, having just became a father, was in a race against time to kickstart his career face up to a career in the military back home.
Luckily for Jones he impressed enough on a trial with Southampton to earn a permanent contract with the South Coast club. Although Kenwyne's attributes were clear to see it was not until a loan spell with Sheffield Wednesday following his move to The Saints that his talent transferred to the pitch. The imposing forward managed seven
goals in seven games whilst on loan with Wednesday and was promptly recalled by his parent club. Jones would later, in 2005, have another spell away from Southampton on loan with Stoke City.
It was the 2006/07 season that Kenwyne really began to make his mark and was a key component in George Burley's side which reached the Play-Off Semi Finals, with Jones chipping in sixteen goals along the way. With comparisons being made to the formidable Didier Drogba it was only a matter of time before speculation began to grow that a move to the Premier League was on the cards.
"Kenwyne is another Didier Drogba in the making, as far as physical attributes, his strength and power in the air are second to none" - George Burley
Jones, seemingly buying into the hype, frustrated his manager and fans alike by effectively going on strike and refusing to play. Bids had been received from newly promoted Derby County however the Saints were keen to hold on to their man who was beginning to find his feet in the game following his spells away on loan.
Just days after handing in a transfer request Roy Keane tabled a £6m offer which was enough for Southampton to release their disgruntled forward. Kenwyne made an immediate impact on Wearside with a series of eye-catching performances, a handful of goals and providing a constant threat for the Sunderland attack. Such was Jones' impressive start that he was again linked with moves to bigger clubs such as Chelsea and Liverpool in December of 2007.
Possibly the most notable acknowledgement of Jones' talent came from everyone's favourite England Captain following his bruising encounter with the commanding centre-forward in March of 2008:
"Jones was fantastic and I have played against him twice now. He is a very good player, very hard working and probably the best in the air in the entire Premier League, he really is that good".
There was a time in Jones' Sunderland career that Terry's observation was absolutely spot on. On his day Kenwyne was as dominant of a target man that you could want, able to bully the opposition with his size and power. Along with everyone else I was a huge fan of "that" Kenwyne - the goalscoring, somersaulting striker that played the game with a beaming smile on his face - it was a joy to watch.
However there seemed to be a moment in Jones' Sunderland career when his mentality changed. Rather than the eager and dangerous forward we had become accustomed to we were more than likely to see Kenwyne seemingly mope about the pitch, hands on hips rolling his eyes. I personally believe that Jones was never the same player for Sunderland following his knee ligament injury suffered whilst on International duty in a game against England. Kenwyne returned to the fold having noticeable bulked up whilst on the sidelines and seemed to have lost a yard or two of pace and mobility. The fixtures when Jones was "on his game" then seemed to become few and far between.
There was an, all be it brief, glimmer of hope upon Djibril Cisse's arrival that the pair could form a fearsome strike partnership and at times this system reaped its rewards with the pair grabbing ten goals apiece, however the 2008/09 season descended into a farce with the club narrowly avoiding relegation on the last day of the season.
I think the timeline of Jones' stint on Wearside pretty much sums it all up. He really made an impact when he first arrived, was lauded by the media and opposition defenders and was courted by some of the countries most successful clubs. He would then go on to suffer a serious injury and return to a side that was struggling, but rather
than display any sign of fight he simply appeared lethargic and sluggish on the pitch, an attitude mirrored on the training ground as well by all accounts. In the end rather than a move to the likes of Liverpool or Tottenham Hotspur he ended up, no disrespect intended whatsoever, at Stoke for £8m in the summer of 2010.
With Stoke Jones seems to have followed a similar pattern. Has impressed in patches but has more often than not left Tony Pulis frustrated at seemingly being unable to motivate his one-time record signing. Kenwyne has also found first team appearances hard to come by this season since the arrival of Peter Crouch and his future is uncertain.
So whilst I certainly have good memories when looking back at Kenwyne's time on Wearside there will always be that nagging element of frustration that the big fella just didn't apply himself enough to truly reach the level that he could and many believe he would have achieved. Still, the somersaults were decent.