DIRECTV W Connection midfield ace and, arguably, the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League’s most gifted player, Joevin Jones, is off to Finland for a six-month loan deal with top flight champion team, HJK FC.
Jones, 23, is scheduled to leave for Helsinki tomorrow to meet his teammates for the first time. By next month, the “Soca Warrior” could be a Europa League player as HJK has qualified for the group round of UEFA’s second most prestigious club competition.
HJK is drawn in a group that includes Torino (Italy), Club Brugge (Belgium) and FC Copenhagen (Denmark).
“I’m very excited,” Jones told Wired868. “It is my first contract abroad and I really want to do well and earn a big move for myself.”
Jones, who has 35 senior national caps, joins a league that has seemingly acquired a taste for Trinidad and Tobago talent. His former Connection teammate, 22-year-old Shahdon Winchester, is at mid-table FF Jaro and is four goals shy of the league’s top scoring mark of 11 items.
While Jones’ 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup teammates, left back Aubrey David and forward Jamal Gay, are also first team regulars at Jaro and RoPS respectively.
Jaro is seventh in the 12-team Veikkausliiga league and ahead of RoPS on goal difference. HJK is a distant first with a whopping 23 point advantage over both clubs.
Connection president David John Williams claimed that HJK has chased Jones for months but the move was delayed to help the “Savonetta Boys” clinch the 2013/14 Pro League title and the million dollar first prize.
HJK qualified for the group stage of the Europa League last Thursday after eking past Austrian club Rapid Wien in a play off and the Finnish team immediately revamped its interest in the young Warrior. HJK and Connection reached an agreement on Sunday afternoon.
“They wanted him for the Europa League (group stage) which ends in December,” said Williams, “and there is an option to renew the deal for another season as well as a pretty decent buy-out clause.”
Williams, who also sold winger Stefano Rijssel to Suriname champion team Inter Moengotapoe last week, denied the Surinamese international’s claim that Connection priced him out of a move to United States Major League Soccer (MLS) club Seattle Sounders.
“Let me make it categorically clear that the MLS never asked me for a price for Rijssel,” said Williams. “It was never a matter of money; so I’m very disappointed that Stefano made that statement.”
Connection could soon send another trio to Europe as 20-year-old right back Alvin Jones, who is Joevin’s younger brother, and teenaged attackers Jomal Williams and Neil Benjamin Jr are on trial at a third division club in France.
Williams claimed that the trio have already suitably impressed their host and it is only matter of agreeing terms for a loan move. He insisted that the possible transfer was a promising one for the former national youth players despite the low status of the unnamed suitor.
“Remember (Ivory Coast legend) Didier Drogba signed for a Third Division club at the age of 23,” said Williams, “and, three years later, he was at Chelsea… If they start there and do well, then in six months’ time they can be in the (France top flight).
“It is just to get into the system.”
The elder Jones expressed delight at his chance to move up the football ladder in Europe after unsuccessful trials with Italy Serie A club, Udinese, and MLS teams, Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC, over the last four years.
His only look at HJK so far was on television as he watched the Finnish giants face a fairly strong Barcelona team in an exhibition match in Helsinki. Barcelona strolled to a 6-0 win.
“They tried to put the ball on the ground and play,” said Jones, “but you know how Barcelona can press…”
HJK employs 11 players who have represented Finland in 2014 including 33-year-old former Chelsea striker Mikael Forssell, who played alongside Stern John at Birmingham City, and 34-year-old ex-Tottenham midfielder Teemu Taino.
Jones will be HJK’s seventh foreigner in its present squad although only Gambian attacker Demba Savage is a regular international player from their over overseas recruits.
Jones, who helped Trinidad and Tobago win silver at the 2012 Caribbean Cup, is unsure whether his European move might affect his international career in the short-term.
Trinidad and Tobago starts its 2014 Caribbean Cup campaign next month in a qualifying group at home.
“If my club wants me to, I will be happy to come back and play,” said Jones. “I always love playing for my country.”