Pennant keen to seize Stoke chance
Jermaine Pennant is delighted to have a second chance with Stoke.
The sometimes wayward winger was set for the Britannia Stadium exit under former boss Tony Pulis, but was granted a reprieve by new manager Mark Hughes after his close-season arrival.
Pennant, now 30, has been through his off-field troubles including a fine over a domestic disturbance and several driving offences - not to mention the fines accumulated when he left his Porsche unattended at a Spanish railway station after returning to England for an initial loan spell at Stoke.
He notes, with a hint of understatement, that: "I've never been the perfect professional - the James Milner type."
But after working with a therapist used by the Potters, he was handed a new one-year contract and is grateful for his opportunity.
"I wanted to stay here but under the old regime it wasn't going to happen," he told the Sunday Telegraph.
"I would have left, without a shadow of a doubt, but the new manager came in and we talked and he just wanted to know, to hear from me, what had happened in the past.
"We went through it and he just said, 'That was not with me. You have talent, you are a good player,' which was what I wanted to hear.
"The club have been fantastic. They could easily have agreed with Tony Pulis and said, 'Yeah, we will call it a day'. In their eyes they are probably thinking they are taking a risk because they are a business as well, so they don't want to pay that money to someone who is not worth it."
Hughes could have a similarly exciting but erratic talent on his hands in the form of summer signing Marko Arnautovic, if the Austrian's former manager Steve McClaren is to be believed.
McClaren was welcomed on his first day at Dutch club FC Twente in 2008 by Arnautovic demanding a transfer, and told the Sunday Times: "I thought, 'Who is this upstart? A 19-year-old boy who thinks he can arrogantly walk in here and demand a move to Feyenoord, one of our rivals?'
"So I said, 'Do you think I am crazy or what? I hear you are the biggest talent at the club'. After three or four weeks, there was no way I was letting him go. He had such ability and potential."
The winger arrived in Staffordshire via further turbulent spells at Inter Milan - where Jose Mourinho described him as having "the attitude of a child" - and Werder Bremen.
McClaren continued: "He is the craziest of characters. He's got a Balotelli thing. I know Mario was his best friend in Milan, which tells you the story.
"As long as Mark has got the personality to connect with the player, that is what you have to do with Marko. If you can connect with him then you have a fantastic player. If you don't, then you have a problem on your hands."
Stoke have won new admirers in the early stages of this season, with Hughes attempting to introduced a more fluent passing style than that relied upon by Pulis.
Pennant said: "It's put a smile back on our faces. It's what we all wanted, really, especially with the squad we have got. We all feel we should have been doing this sort of stuff before. Now we are allowed to express ourselves.
"Every manager has got ideas of his own, a style they want to play and (Pulis) just felt that was defensively good, a good shape. His idea was maybe firstly not to lose, to be solid. Now maybe it's, 'Go out and win.' So it's a different approach."