Sport Soccer

Thursday 22 February 2018

Trap can't ignore Pennant's record

Stoke City winger Jermaine Pennant played for England U21s on 24 occasions. Photo: Getty Images
Stoke City winger Jermaine Pennant played for England U21s on 24 occasions. Photo: Getty Images
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

It may be a longshot but Jermaine Pennant could be wearing an Irish jersey in time for the crunch Euro 2012 qualifier against Macedonia in June.

The Stoke City winger with a troubled past has given up on a call from England boss Fabio Capello and instead has declared a desire to play for Ireland, as he believes he is qualified to play through his grandfather.

It remains to be seen whether his decision at the age of 28 to declare for the Republic will be welcomed by manager Giovanni Trapattoni, who has plenty of options on the flanks.

The FAI have not been contacted by the player and a spokesman said they would "evaluate" his situation if he expresses an interest directly.

The association would then need to investigate Pennant's Irish heritage, before the player can apply for a passport. Having represented England at U-21 level 24 times, he would need FIFA clearance to switch countries -- a process that could take between eight and nine weeks, just in time for the Skopje trip.

Pennant was once Britain's most expensive teenager when Arsene Wenger paid Notts County £2m for the then 15-year-old in 1999.

But he has failed to live up to his early promise and his career has been blighted by a propensity to land himself in trouble off the pitch. When at Birmingham City, he spent a month in jail in 2005, before becoming the first player to wear an electronic tag while playing in the Premier League.

He believes it is the off-field reputation that has hindered his international chances rather than his abilities on it, and has now given up on playing for the country of his birth.

"I'd love to play for England but it's just never happened," he said. "I don't think it's going to happen, not because of my ability, but maybe misdemeanours in the past that have put that to a halt.

"My grandad is Irish, so there's a chance I can play for them. I'm not getting any younger and I would like to play international football

"Who's to say that Ireland can't get to the next World Cup? If I could be a part of that with Ireland, that would be great. If I've got a chance to play international football with Ireland, I'm going to take it with both hands."

But whether Trapattoni would want the baggage that comes with the ex-Liverpool man is another question, while he would face competition from Aiden McGeady, Liam Lawrence, Seamus Coleman and Keith Fahey for a spot on the right wing.

Since his teenage years, the Nottingham native -- who spent part of his upbringing in a homeless hostel and whose father is a convicted drug dealer currently in prison -- has failed to impress managers with his indiscipline.


Imprisoned for driving drunk while his licence was suspended in 2005, he bounced back with Birmingham and earned a £6.7 move to Anfield.

But despite playing in the 2007 Champions League final he fell foul of Rafael Benitez after turning up late for training the morning after the MTV Awards were held on Merseyside.

He then joined Real Zaragoza, where he again got on the wrong side of his manager for his tardiness and moved to Stoke on loan. Reports that Pennant left his Porsche sitting in a Spanish train station gathering dust and parking fines sum up, for many, the characteristics that make him the epitome of the flawed Premier League footballer.

"I'm not a person who goes into a dressing-room and causes aggro," he has said in his defence. "Sometimes I'm a bit lively and bubbly, but that isn't a bad thing. I'm not disrespectful to people, I'm not rude to managers."

But while he claims to be reformed since the birth of his son last year and his form for Stoke has been good this season, his past is sure to have a large influence on Trapattoni's decision.

Irish Independent

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