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Ex-Premier League winger Jermaine Pennant has revealed that he didn’t get in until 6am after a boozy night out before his Arsenal debut – but still scored a hat-trick.
Beginning his career in the youth ranks at his home club Notts County, Pennant was quickly snapped up by Arsenal in 1999 before he had made an appearance for The Magpies.
A pacy winger on the pitch, Pennant also quickly developed a reputation for mischief off it, and has spoken previously about how one of his managers once visited him in prison after he was arrested for drink-driving.
Now, speaking to the Open Goal podcast, the midfield maverick was asked whether the rumours were true that he had been on a night-out the day before he made his Arsenal debut.
“Yeah, I was absolutely mortalled,” Pennant confessed.
Setting the scene, he explained that there had been an FHM magazine launch party on the Friday night before a league match against Southampton, a week before the fixture would be replayed in the FA Cup final.
This meant, Jermaine explained, that senior players including Ashley Cole were being rested, so were able to attend the party.
And, not expecting to feature himself, Jermaine wanted to head out with the rest of the team, who tried to prevent him, Cole urging: “You could be starting tomorrow.”
The squad even resorted to locking Jermaine in his room, but the maverick winger remembered: “I’ve jumped out the window, got in a taxi, and they’re raging, they’re calling me every name under the sun, and they didn’t speak to me.
“We’ve had a few drinks, I’ve had a coke, and they’re getting a bit drunk… So I’ve ended up having one, and then two, and people are coming up to me, ‘are you not playing tomorrow?’ And I’m saying, ‘nah I’m injured’.
“Three in the morning comes, and I’m still out with the boys, absolutely razzled. I get back home at 6am. We’re meeting up for a pre-match meal at 11, so I’ve got three or four hours of sleep.
“We get into the team-meeting, Arsene’s there, I’m next to Patric [Viera]. Arsene pulls the paper back, it says ‘Pennant’ on the right, but I thought it said ‘Parlour’.”
Doing a double-take, Pennant described how he was hit with a sudden fear that he might be about to ruin his career, recalling: “If I play I’m going to be an absolute shambles.”
But, as it turned out, the forward’s debut couldn’t have gone any better. In the game’s early stages, Pennant was set up by club legend Henry, bagging his first goal for the side.
And, his disbelief was doubled, when he went on to score a second goal, heading home a rebound after a Kanu shot.
“I’m steaming at this time, I can wait until half-time, I’ve got confidence,” he laughed.
And, after Henry assisted him again to complete a debut hat-trick, Pennant claimed he forgot all of his pre-match nerves, saying:“After that I’m thinking well, I am absolutely hungover here, I am dying, but I’ve scored a hat-trick, so it doesn’t matter what I do now.”
Not only did the winger score a hat-trick, but, reflecting on whether manager Arsene Wenger was aware of his indiscretion, Pennant admitted that he thinks he got away with it.
“He never actually pulled me and said, ‘you look ill’. If he’d have found out he would have said, ‘I know you’ve scored a hat-trick but you need to prepare better’,” he suggested.
Despite his successful start, Pennant did not score any more goals for Arsenal, and was eventually loaned out to various clubs including Watford, Leeds United, and finally Birmingham City, before he was sold in 2005.
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- Arsenal FC
- Arsene Wenger
- Frank Lampard
- FA Cup
- Premier League
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