I'm a former Arsenal star.. without football I would have been forced into a life of drugs and crime | The Sun

JERMAINE PENNANT has revealed that if it wasn't for football he would have been forced into a life of drugs and crime.

The former footballer, 40, had pressure thrust upon him from an early age.

He became the most expensive youth player in history when he signed for Arsenal from Notts County in 1999 for £2million when he was just 15.

He would go on to play for the likes of Liverpool, Birmingham City and Stoke before ending his career at Billericay Town in 2017.

In an interview with Lord Ping, Pennant opened up about how football saved him from a tough upbringing in Nottingham.

He grew up in The Meadows area of the city – an area known for a high rate of crime.


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Reflecting on his upbringing, Pennant said: “I came from a very rough and tough estate, there weren’t many opportunities so I would have fallen into the mould of friends in the crime world, drugs and gang warfare. I’d have ended up following that mould. 

“I wasn’t amazing at school because of football, I concentrated on that. Without football it would have been a total opposite life with different experiences, and not for the better."

Pennant recently opened up on the childhood trauma he faced while presenting on TalkSPORT.

After speaking about Dele Alli's shocking interview on The Overlap with Gary Neville, Pennant reflected on his own experiences growing up.

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He said bullies at school would call him "The Cornflake Kid" owing to his family struggling to put enough food on the table for him to eat every day.

He also opened up on the neglect he received from both his parents.

He said: “I was embarrassed to tell my story, what I went through, where I came from, what I saw.

“I was abandoned by my mother when I was three, my father had me on weekends and when he took me back and my mum was never there.

“My father raised me to the best of his abilities and I was around six or seven, he then neglected me.

“So I would take myself to school, make my own dinners, which was Cornflakes. It got to the point where my mates would call me 'The Cornflake Kid', because that's all I'd eat.

“Then my dad got into drugs, people coming in an out of the house, I'd say he was an addict. So I had no mum, no father, surrounded by drugs, guns and crime.”


Pennant was able to leave home at the age of 14 when he joined a Youth Training Scheme while playing for Notts County.

Reflecting on how football changed his life when talking to Lord Ping, Pennant said that footballers should not be demonised for what they earn.

He said: “Wages are out of footballers’ control, how much we earn, it’s a business and we generate entertainment and revenue which pays you to do that.

"If you have a massive business and your employees bring in X, Y and Z, you’re going to pay them well.

“It’s out of our control. People may dislike it but it does help young people from tough backgrounds.

"The majority of footballers are from lower-class backgrounds. Anyone can play it, you don’t need a rich family to get into it. 

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“I’ve never understood why actors and musicians don’t get the same grief. Maybe because it’s a lower class sport. You’ve come from nothing, and we don’t like that. To be an actor you need a degree, this and that.

"Even in F1, look how much Lewis Hamilton gets per race with sponsors too. Same with NBA and NFL. There are so many sportsmen who earn more, so it is frustrating."

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