Jermaine Pennant has been a controversial figure in the world of football from forgetting his Porsche in Spain to playing with an electronic tag. But there was a time when Jermaine Pennant was supposed to be the newest brightest prospect coming out of English football with his local academy team Notts County. So what all went wrong?
In 1999, at the age of just 15, a young fresh-faced Jermaine Pennant was showing signs early on that he would make the grade in professional football. After impressing so much so for Notts County’s academy, Pennant was granted a move to the best team in England at the time, Arsenal, in a record-breaking fee for a teenager of £2million. 4 years later he made his first start for the Gunners against Southampton scoring a hat trick in a remarkable 6–1 win at Highbury, with Pennant claiming that he wasn’t expecting to start the game and proceeded to get very drunk the night before. In his own words, he states that he “got wasted” stayed out all night and then “woke up with a McDonald’s breakfast”. The English media were all over this 19-year-old from Nottingham and hailed him as ‘The Next David Beckham’ for his dangerous set-pieces and playing in the same right midfield position. However, this never really materialised for Pennant and after unsuccessful loan spells at Watford and Leeds, he was sold by Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal to Birmingham City having been on loan there the season before.
During his first stint on loan at Birmingham, Pennant found himself in trouble with alcohol again. In 2005, at the tender age of just 22, he pleaded guilty to drink driving. The winger spent 30 days in prison which didn’t sink in for him at first with Pennant saying, “It didn’t sink in until after a week inside”. He would think to himself ‘Oh my god I’m in prison-what have I done with my life? What have I done with my career?’ But straight after his release the Blues’ manager, Steve Bruce, signed Pennant permanently for £3million and gave him a second chance. He has since gone on to express his thanks for them claiming that “I owe them a lot.” However, he only stayed another year and was on his way to Anfield to sign for title challengers Liverpool for £6.7million.
He impressed immediately with his first goal being ‘the goal of the season’ against Chelsea, then helping Liverpool on their way to the Champions League final in Athens. They met against a formidable AC Milan side consisting of Andrea Pirlo, Paulo Maldini and Clarence Seedorf. The Italian giants ran out 2–0 winners with a double from Fillippo Inzaghi. This made Jermaine Pennant the only player to have played in the Champions League final and not have a single cap for England. He had previously vented his frustrations to manager Steve McClaren when he wasn’t called up to play in England’s game against Andorra in Israel.
However, in his second and third season, he failed to impress and even a loan spell at Portsmouth wasn’t enough to make an impression, and with Liverpool refusing to offer him an improved deal he found himself unemployed.
Pennant was then a free agent and he chose to take his talents abroad, to Spain, with Real Zaragoza being only one of a few clubs interested in the Englishmen’s signature. He signed a 3-year contract for the La Liga outfit. However, Zaragoza was flirting with relegation for most of the season and Pennant’s performances were very questionable with many fans. Along with his performances, he turned up late for training on several occasions and never played in Spain again. He had agreed to a 5-month loan deal to return to the Premier League with Stoke City, unfortunately leaving his highly expensive, top of the range Porsche at the railway station.
On his return to the Premier League Tony Pulis was a strong disciplinarian, and he responded well in his loan spell at the Potteries, earning him a 2-and-a-half-year contract worth £1.725million. With Pennant claiming that “The supporters, players and management have been absolutely fantastic, and I desperately wanted to stay.” After this he became an integral part of the Stoke City squad that reached club’s first-ever FA Cup final in the club’s history in 2011, suffering a 1–0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City. However, in his second season Pennant found himself in trouble with alcohol again when in 2012 he admitted to being over twice the legal limit when he crashed his BMW in Greater Manchester. He since came out and said he was feeling ‘depressed’ and ‘stressed’. A contributing factor of this was his ex-girlfriend and 20-month-old child at the time, not watching him in a game at the Britannia Stadium against his former club Arsenal for Stoke. But his relationship with the bottle unnerved Tony Pulis, and Pennant had lost his trust with the manager and had another unsuccessful loan spell, this time to recently relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers.
He spent another half a season at Stoke under new manager Mark Hughes. But in a substitute appearance against Everton on New Years Day, he gave away a penalty after a rush of blood on midfielder Leon Osman. Leighton Baines put the ball past the young Jack Butland in net and Pennant never played for Stoke again.
Since his time at the top level has come to an end Jermaine Pennant went abroad again to India for Pune City and Asia to Tampines Rovers where Pennant was offered a 10-day trial, and a 12-month contract at the end of it.
He went on to have more unsuccessful spells at English clubs with Wigan Athletic and League 1 outfit Bury. Not the career we were expecting for a lad who was once labelled the ‘Next David Beckham.’
Since then, he failed at a trial with Scottish side Hibernian in 2017 and has most recently been released by non-league side Billericay Town after just 4 months.
So overall, Pennant’s career has been a huge disappointment to what we were expecting when he first signed for Arsenal when he was a record-breaking teenager. However, incidents off the field, such as alcohol and poor attitude have cost him, making him a huge waste of talent and a failed wonderkid.