The growing list of former Premier League names to take on prominent coaching roles in the women’s game had an intriguing recent addition in Kenwyne Jones. The one-time Sunderland and Stoke City frontman in full flight during his career was a sight to behold, and having taken the reins with Trinidad and Tobago’s national team, he feels a big responsibility to try and help others soar.
Defenders who faced him will attest to how formidable Kenwyne Jones was at his best, and his memorable somersault celebration routine is surely as majestic as the Premier League has seen. While his career in English football, and specifically his seven seasons in the top division, elevated his profile to different levels, the former forward was also part of history being made back home.
Among the first – and to this day, only – Trinidad and Tobago team to qualify for the World Cup, he went on to captain the Soca Warriors later in his career, and by the time he retired at 33, had firmly established himself as one of his nation’s most widely-renowned talents. Four years on from his retirement, he was recently appointed head coach of T&T’s women’s national team, following six weeks in interim charge.
“Well, knowing the story of our women’s national team over the years, they needed stability, I think,” he explains when asked of his initial approach with the players after stepping in. “The story has been a bit of a cringer, in a lot of respects, over the years, but during that period where the coach (James Thomas) left (to become Bristol City women and girls development manager) and the interim coach (Constantine Konstin) didn’t last very long, I did have a conversation with them firstly, giving them my commitment that I would not just walk out and leave.
“In terms of knowing what they need, I think I’ve already known that for some time, representing the country and knowing the ins and outs of our footballing teams, association and that type of stuff. The initial thing was just having a conversation with them first-hand, and basically just showing my commitment to the cause.”
The ex-Southampton and Cardiff City man has signed a nine-month contract, with an option for him to extend for a further year. Constantine Konstin, who had been in charge of the men’s futsal team, had been named interim boss just a few days prior to Jones stepping in, with the Trinidad and Tobago FA citing ‘personal commitments and conflicts that require him to return to the USA at the end of October.’
The Soca Princesses came agonisingly close to reaching the 2015 World Cup, with a pair of near misses at 2014’s Concacaf Women’s Championship in the United States. With three qualification places available at the tournament, a semi-final shootout defeat to Costa Rica was followed two days later by 4-2 extra-time heartbreak against Mexico in the third-place match.
That was the tournament in which they lost just 1-0 to the US in the group opener, when goalkeeper Kimika Forbes in particular earned rave reviews. The team had memorably arrived at their tournament training camp in Dallas with just $500 in expenses, leading then-Houston Dash coach Randy Waldrum, who had only inherited the Trinidad and Tobago team a few weeks earlier, to appeal on Twitter for any available help with food and equipment.
Their final chance to qualify came in the two-legged tie with Ecuador, which brought a packed home attendance of 22,000 to Hasely Crawford Stadium for the decisive second game, as Ecuador netted a stoppage-time winner. In 2018’s qualifying competition, when Jamaica had their history-making moment, T&T did not make it out of an extremely difficult group with the US, Panama and Mexico.
When announcing Jones’ appointment, the option to extend his contract by a further year was supplemented with ‘based on the achievement of KPIs (key performance indicators) and a successful performance appraisal’. With regard to his specific remit, does he understand it to be based on on-field results, or more weighted toward what he can help implement around that?