Jenas gets his head right as he gives Sven an option on the left

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The Independent Online

Sven Goran Eriksson sprung a surprise last week when he chose Jermaine Jenas to replace the absent David Beckham on the right of midfield, ahead of more established players such as Shaun Wright-Phillips, Joe Cole and Owen Hargreaves, for England's World Cup qualifier in Azerbaijan. Now Newcastle United's Jenas wants to return the compliment by digging the England coach out of a hole on the other side of the pitch.

Sven Goran Eriksson sprung a surprise last week when he chose Jermaine Jenas to replace the absent David Beckham on the right of midfield, ahead of more established players such as Shaun Wright-Phillips, Joe Cole and Owen Hargreaves, for England's World Cup qualifier in Azerbaijan. Now Newcastle United's Jenas wants to return the compliment by digging the England coach out of a hole on the other side of the pitch.

No England coach has really found a satisfactory replacement on the left since John Barnes starred there in the Eighties. Eriksson has recently been trying a combination of Wayne Bridge, when fit, and Ashley Cole in support.

Barnes, coincidentally, is one of Jenas's footballing heroes. The other is Stan Collymore - it's a Nottingham Forest thing. Jenas, who talks and plays with an increasingly confident stride, said at St James' Park ahead of today's trip to Charlton Athletic: "Central midfield is my best position and the left is not an easy position to fill, but if I was given the chance there, I would grab it."

Jenas left Forest, his hometown club, for £5 million two years ago and soon was voted Young Player of the Year, featuring in Champions' League and international football. Azerbaijan might have been his first start, but he has now figured eight times for England.

Frank Lampard played on the left on Wednesday, but Jenas added: "Elsewhere, you've got the likes of Becks and Stevie Gerrard - I think Sven will always go with them when they are available. But if I'm asked to come in, I'll do a job."

Jenas has started in every game under Graeme Souness as they bid to maintain the new Newcastle manager's six-game unbeaten run at The Valley. He is likely to play on the left, too, as Souness has indicated he does not fancy Laurent Robert's inability to hack it when the going gets tough away from home. Striker Patrick Kluivert is out injured.

"Graeme Souness coming here has benefited me," Jenas said. "He was a midfielder and he pays attention to midfielders. He is encouraging me and I am sure he will help to develop me in the long run. There is a buzz about the place at the moment and the players are responding to it."

They needed to after performing so poorly that they could not prevent Sir Bobby Robson from getting the sack only four games into the season. Jenas was close to Robson, if only because they share the same birthday, albeit 50 years apart.

He hopes he can repay some of Robson's faith by continuing to improve, conceding he lost his way and form last season as ultimately an injury kept him out of the European Championship. "I felt my career took a bit of a dip last season, but you have to dig in and work through it. It makes you a stronger person. I always knew the ability was there. It helps if you stay close to your family. I've always been close to my mother and my mates.

"Pressure can affect your performances. It's difficult when you're playing in the Champions' League and for England, like I was a couple of seasons ago, and you end up as the Young Player of the Year. You don't get a chance to sit back and enjoy it. When I finally did that, maybe it was at the wrong time. My head wasn't right at the end of last season and I seemed to attract a lot of criticism. I lost my way a bit because of that, but I got my head right in the summer. I was determined to come back this season and show people I wouldn't let it get to me."

Some things do get to this cool cat, however. Jenas appeared close to tears when he lined up for the national anthem in midweek, but there will be no sentiment in south London this afternoon against an expectant Charlton, who hope to have midfielder Matt Holland involved again.

"I was more nervous the night before than I was during the game," Jenas said of the Azerbaijan game. "On the day, I felt more relaxed, but walking out playing for England is a great feeling and I was quite emotional during the anthem.

"I'm only 21 and I want to get better and better. I'm in the starting line-up at Newcastle, have made my first start for England and I scored my first goal of the season against Birmingham in our last game, so I have to be pleased with the way things are going."

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