Position: Right winger
From: Arsenal - on loan - January 2002
Record: Played: 9 Scored: 2
To: Arsenal - end of loan - February 2002
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: A silver lining
Over the years, it's become usual practice to write "Gone but not forgotten" pieces for players in the couple
of days after they've moved on to pastures new or, in many cases, pastures unknown. The benefit is an immediate reaction, and
one less thing on the "stuff to do" list.
This time, I'm writing about Jermaine Pennant nearly a month after his return to Arsenal. Mainly, that's because
it was unclear whether he had gone, as Luca Vialli was clearly keen to bring him back for a
further loan period after he'd served a three-match suspension for an understandable, if unnecessary, red card
against Grimsby. But, in many ways, the extra perspective is useful here.
Back in January, it seemed as if a few weeks of Jermaine Pennant was about as much as we could hope for. The
season was going nowhere in no particular hurry, the performances ranged from disgraceful to merely drab. The
prospect of watching Pennant, every inch a class act (apart from the beard), do his thing was rather like
getting to borrow your mate's swanky new remote control car to cheer you up after the school bully's nicked
all your sweets again. Some consolation.
Even if he finally tired of being kicked around by First Division cloggers and lashed out at Grimsby's Gallimore,
he was frequently fabulous. Signed by Arsenal for £17m while he was still in nappies (or something),
his reputation preceded him and proved to be well-founded. Quick, astonishingly skilful and pleasingly
competitive, he managed to hide his inexperience well for the most part, carving great holes in several defences
and working hard for the side even when he could make no headway himself. A luxurious, sparkling lining for
our thunderous black cloud.
Really, that seemed to be it. A bit of a treat, a firework display to ooh and aah at. Someone to applaud
rather than boo, and therefore an exception at the time. The results were almost entirely dreadful during
his short stay, the mood uniformly bleak. He gave us something to smile about, which was much less than we could've
asked for but about all we were going to get....
Except not, as it turned out. For Jermaine Pennant's most significant contribution may have been in the last half
hour of his Watford career, as the Hornets attempted an improbable, and unsuccessful, comeback at St Andrews. The
momentum continued after he'd left, as a revitalised Watford steam-rollered Norwich three days afterwards and later
treated West Brom, Palace and Coventry to equally potent, muscular performances. At the time of writing, it's impossible
to say where it'll all lead...but the point is that it matters again, that there are gigantic roars of
celebration where once there was just a smattering of polite applause.
It seems like a long time since Jermaine Pennant's handful of appearances, really. And, enjoyable and occasionally
thrilling as his short visit was, it has to be said that another current loan signing is having a far greater
You could build a team around a player like Wayne Brown. Unless you've got similar quality throughout, you
can only decorate it with a player like Jermaine Pennant.