Monday, July 13, 2009 by Paul Grech
It was always going to be tough for Jermaine Pennant to suceed at Liverpool. For one thing, there was his troublesome past that many were unwilling to forget no matter what he did or how he behaved. But, more than that, there was the feeling that Pennant had been a fallback option that Rafael Benitez had gone for because he either didn't have the money or the authority to buy the players that he really wanted.
All of which inevitably weighed Pennant down. Almost fearful of making mistakes, early on he stayed too much on the right often opting to put in crosses instead of the risker, but possibly more effective, option to try and beat the right back. Rather than do him any favours, this added even more pressure on him as it strengthened people's view that he was second rate. Adding to the chorus of criticism was his almost complete inability to score and soon the realisation hit home that, as many had so vociferously said, he wasn't good enough to be a regular player for Liverpool.
Then again, he wasn't as bad as some make out. Pennant's other main problem was his inconsistency. Occasionally he would put in a magnificent performance - none more so than in the 2007 Champions League Final - but then he would follow that with a series of completely mediocre ones. If a player manages to balance his bad games with his good ones then there isn't that much of an issue. Pennant, however, got the ratio horribly wrong. And the harder he tried, then the more he seemed to struggle.
Eventually, as is his habit, Benitez decided that he wanted to get rid of Pennant. To his merit the player tried to stay on as much as possible in a bid to earn a new contract but unfortunately for him Benitez isn't one to change his mind easily. Hardly surprising then, that after a season in which he was first shut out from the first team and then sent out on loan, Pennant has left the club.
What is surprising, however, is his choice for the next club. Forget the rumours linking him to Valencia and AC Milan, he could easily have chosen to go for the one of many middling Premiership clubs like Portsmouth, Sunderland and Tottenham who were all apparently interested in him. The money there would have been quite good and he wouldn't have needed to work particularly hard to prove his worth at any one of those clubs.
Yet instead he has opted to join Real Zaragoza, a club that in Britain remains famous for having beaten Arsenal in the Cup Winners' Cup final thanks to Nayim's improbable lob. It is a bold move, one that should portray Pennant in a different light. Indeed, here is a player who, aware that for him things aren't going to get better than playing for Liverpool, has opted for a whole new challenge whilst displaying a desire to grow as a player by testing himself in a new league.
If anything is to make people forget his past, then hopefully this is it.