Jermaine Pennant ‘“ the enigma

Jermaine Pennant was not the first Liverpool player to endure a chorus of boos on Wednesday night [Editors note: Reports of any booing are wrong, those who there said there were no boos, only ironic cheers from some] and he will certainly not be the last. Indeed, the red’s demoralising midweek draw felt like a loss, such is the sorry state of affairs thus far. To date, the 2006/07 campaign has been one of indifference. Just like a David James haircut, the side can be smooth, wayward or darn right tragic.

Pennant’s inability to settle is only representative of collective failing. The predictable disappointment, criticism and anger directed in his direction will only undermine possible progress. The name Daniel Alves has appeared on the lips of many supporters in recent weeks. A well-taken goal in Seville’s last outing preceded a majestic display against high-flying Valencia. It is no secret that Rafa Benitez admires the pacey full-back. It is no secret that the Spaniard strived to secure his capture during the summer. It is no secret that he failed.

Like it or loathe it, Pennant, not Alves, was brought to Anfield in July and the proverbial make-do with what you have has to transpire. Admittedly, this requires joint participation and Pennant definitely needs to develop to stave-off a quick exit out of his dream club. Senor Benitez is not one to dwindle. Those who flatter to deceive will be removed accordingly. The names Josemi, Pellegrino and Morientes still come to the forefront of Kopites minds like a raging migraine.

For all his bad-boy reputation, the former Arsenal starlet appears somewhat puritan at present. Perhaps a spell behind bars transformed our very own menace into a reserved, introverted example of the positive effect rehabilitation can exert. Failing this, last year’s diabolical 9 months in Birmingham blue could have brainwashed him, truly a sentence in itself. The latter carries greater substance.

The current incumbent of the much-publicised right-wing is fast, tricky and an exceptional crosser of a ball. It is with these attributes in mind, rather than a physical resemblance to Alves, that Benitez convinced Rick Parry to submit a cheque dangerously near the £7 million mark. Seldom have such characteristics manifested.

The age-old story of stage-fright ensues here. Pennant is clearly reluctant to beat any left-back for fear of failure. His crossing, on the rare occasion it surfaces, is about as productive and limp as Peter Schemichael on a dance floor. As for trickery, the safe-bet of an easy pass into Steven Gerrard or Xabi Alonso overpowers any instinct to showcase skill.

Before Portsmouth’s unashamed 90 minute occupation of their own goal-line, many an unhappy finger of gesticulation was forwarded to the likes of Gerrard, Alonso and Jamie Carragher.

Again, it is easy for Pennant, and to a certain extent Mark Gonzalez and Craig Bellamy, to hide behind such focal points of the team. Not now. A dismal away record means all within the squad have to shoulder responsibility, not the usual suspects who portray will, determination and heart every week.

Dirk Kuyt is a great example to follow. Not since donned by Kevin Keegan has that shirt encompassed so much sweat. Though for a 30 minute spell against PSV Eindhoven, it looked as though Kuyt were merely a disguised version of Sean Dundee. Nevertheless, he never let his head drop, raging like a bull for the entirety of the game and eventually setting-up Peter Crouch for a welcomed winner.

Kuyt’s arrival has brought with it plentiful plaudits. Yes, at times there have been sublime parts to his play, but regardless of form, the Dutch International covers every blade of that hallowed turf, earning Liverpudlian appreciation in the process.

Jermaine Pennant should take a leaf out of his fellow arrival’s book and work to wear the Liverbird upon his chest. That, or the benchmark laid by Danny Murphy, another maligned midfielder, once the concentration of boos. He vented such frustration by scoring the winning goal against Manchester United ‘“ frequently. Of course, such a re-occurrence is preferable, but for the time being the required effort will do for starters.

If Pennant really cares about Liverpool Football Club and his career in general, he will surely not let this opportunity go to waste. An upturn is belated; the JJB could provide the ideal backdrop.

Aaron Cutler

More from This Is Anfield

Fan Comments