Hindustan Times (Lucknow)
Even a rape convict deserves second chance, says Pennant
NEW LEAF Pune City’s latest recruit knows the flipside of ‘being judged by past’, backs disgraced Evans
Nearly 15 years after he became the youngest Arsenal debutant, the past still seems to get ahead of Jermaine Pennant. So much so that he said joining FC Pune City was, among other things, “the best option at the time to play some football and get myself back on the radar again.”
From being a record signing for Arsenal in 1999, Pennant became something of a bad egg. Once he played a Premiership match wearing an electronic tag because he was under surveillance. Pennant sought professional help to get his life back on track in 2012 and 2013 and that’s why he said he thinks Ched Evans deserves another chance.
“It’s unthinkable what he did but at the same time he is still pleading innocence. So, I don’t think you can make a judgment yet. Something’s not right about that. I have been in the wrong enough number of times and at a young age, you make a mistake, everybody makes mistakes. He should get a second chance, yeah, a second chance,” Pennant told HT during his first interview in India on Friday.
Evans, 25, was convicted of rape and spent nearly two years in prison before being discharged last month. Evans’ bid to resume his football career at Sheffield United, his last club, had 150,000 signing a petition urging the club to not take him back.
Being judged by his past is something Pennant knows well. He said it got in the way of representing England even though competing with a certain David Beckham didn’t help. “Ability-wise I could have got a chance. You want your best playing for your country. But then David Beckham is so much more than a footballer while I kept getting judged by my past issues... Know what, I think I am the only English footballer to have played a Champions League final, been adjudged Man of the Match, and still not play for England,” he said.
The final was in 2007 when Liverpool lost to AC Milan. “That made it bittersweet. But coming off the pitch I told myself I had just lived a dream,” he said.
For someone who credits football from keeping him away from a life of drugs and crime, it does seem odd that Pennant would get into disciplinary issues. “You don’t know it then but certain things from young age affect your adult life,” he said.
Pennant said he thanks “Arsene and Arsenal” for nurturing his career but accepted he didn’t live up to potential. “I had great players in front, such as (Robert) Pires, Sylvain Wiltord, Freddie Ljungberg and Ray Parlour sometimes but I still thought I would get 20 minutes sometimes, the odd Cup game. That was probably when I started getting frustrated, getting angry.”
ABILITY-WISE I COULD HAVE GOT A CHANCE. BUT THEN BECKHAM IS SO MUCH MORE THAN A FOOTBALLER WHILE I KEPT GETTING JUDGED BY MY PAST PENNANT, on trouble to break
into national side