At 28 years of age Jermaine Jenas is in the prime years of his career. Once a promising youngster with a bright future in the game, he now finds himself trying to rebuild a career that has nosedived in dramatic fashion.
Spells at Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur have seen the England midfielder fail to live up to the potential that was first noticed back in 2001 when he was bossing the Nottingham Forest midfield as a fresh faced 18-year-old. Big-money moves to Tyneside and North London followed where he constantly flattered to deceive. 10 years after his £5 million move to St James’ Park, where he was supposed to turn into the country’s leading midfielder, he’s now on loan at Aston Villa with a resurrection on his agenda. But why does it never work out for Jermaine Jenas?
When he first signed for Newcastle in February 2002, the late Sir Bobby Robson labeled Jenas the complete midfielder and the most talented youngster in the country. For the first 18 months of his career at St James’ Park there was cause to agree with Robson’s sentiments – Jenas took the Premier League by storm with his box-to-box engine and tenacity winning him many supporters. The club was riding high at that time with Champions League football and a top three finish corresponding with Jenas’ emergence. It was no surprise that after his outstanding debut season he deservedly picked the 2002/03 PFA Young Player of the Year award.
I watched him many times during his time in black and white and those two seasons he spent playing alongside Gary Speed were a joy to behold. He could outrun a Duracell bunny, scored some fantastic goals and showed no fear when coming up against tougher and more experienced opponents. However, the next three years were a complete mirror image with a majority of games seeing Jenas turn in some bland and lifeless displays. The problems intensified after Robson was sacked and Graeme Souness came in. Despite being handed the vice-captaincy, Jenas never regained his form and in 2005 decided to leave the club citing the fact he wasn’t enjoying life in the Newcastle ‘goldfish bowl’.
A £7 million move to White Hart Lane and relocation to London looked like the tonic that Jenas needed to reignite the spark that he’d lost in the North East. Fast-forward six years and once again he’s got a fight on his hands to save his career and avoid slipping into obscurity. His time at Spurs hasn’t exactly been the best with the odd notable performance, but I’d imagine most fans, as well as Harry Redknapp, weren’t weeping when he joined Villa.
The problem I think Jenas has is that he can’t handle pressure very well.
The two big clubs that he’s played for over the past nine years both have intensely loyal fan bases, creating a heated environment where one mistake or under-par performance will be scrutinized ferociously. During his time at Newcastle and Spurs, both clubs were challenging at the top end of the Premier League and in Europe. Normally players would thrive on such opportunities but Jenas seemed to just slump into his shell and crumble under the weight of expectation that surrounded the football clubs at the time. Pressure seems to be his kryptonite and whenever the dial is turned up ever so slightly he goes into hiding. It could be a case of too much pressure being shifted onto his shoulders at a young age. A lot of people were branding him as a future England captain during his Forest emergence and at only 18 I can imagine it being quite daunting to be set in that bracket.
In my opinion he has spent too much time worrying about living up to the expectations set for him just as he was starting his career. Regularly performing to that level to appease those who have put their trust in your and having that weigh on your mind during a game must be mentally exhausting. He did receive a lot of criticism for his drastic plummet in form at Newcastle and that has had a bearing on his ability to play with freedom. I’d imagine that each and every game he has played during his career he’s approached it with the perturbed mindset that he has to match the level set by fans, coaches, pundits and journalists. He’s never struck me as a player that oozes confidence and I think that his standard of performance has deteriorated swiftly over the years because of that.
It’s been a career filled with disappointment. Today Jenas is considered yet another player who has failed to fulfill the vast potential he showed in his youth. At Villa he is now at a club where the minimum requirement this season is to finish in the top half. That kind of mellow environment could allow him to regain some confidence and rediscover the form that he displayed as a teenager in his early days at Forest and Newcastle.
Written by Jak Penny for FootballFancast.com.
ThisisFutbol.com are seeking new writers to join the team! If you’re passionate about football, drop us a line at “email@example.com” to learn more.