Birmingham stand by Pennant after three-month jail sentence

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The Independent Online

Birmingham City have said they will stand by Jermaine Pennant after their on-loan winger was jailed for three months for driving offences.

Birmingham City have said they will stand by Jermaine Pennant after their on-loan winger was jailed for three months for driving offences.

The Premiership club confirmed they would be discussing Pennant's situation with Arsenal, but their managing director, Karren Brady, has ruled out ending his loan spell. The club say they will aid Pennant's rehabilitation and help him get his career back on track.

"We hope that Jermaine will accept his punishment and hope he learns from this mistake," Brady said.

"He is a talented young person and upon his release we will give him all the help and support he needs to turn his life around. We hope that under our guidance he will be able to make a positive contribution to football and society as a whole."

Arsenal are understood to have no intention of terminating the player's contract. He is on loan until the end of the season, at which point his contract at Highbury is due to expire.

Pennant, 22, pleaded guilty last month to drink driving and driving while banned, and has been banned for a further three years. He was back in court half an hour after being sentenced at Aylesbury Magistrates' Court yesterday as his defence team tried to get him bailed when lodging an appeal. The chairman of magistrates, John Jakobi, said bail would not be granted because the Crown Court would hear the appeal quickly.

Having found first-team opportunities limited at Arsenal, Pennant joined Birmingham on loan last month and quickly became a fans' favourite at St Andrews. A club statement said: "We are extremely disappointed with the news that Jermaine Pennant has been given a custodial sentence. We will now be speaking to Arsenal."

The Birmingham manager, Steve Bruce, insisted this week that a jail sentence would not benefit the winger as much as rehabilitation at the Midlands club. His views were echoed by the club chairman, David Gold.

Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, claimed Pennant was at a "crossroads in his career". He added: "I hope he has got the strength to come out of this and be better for it."

Pennant was arrested in January after he was spotted in a car park in Aylesbury driving a Mercedes with a lamp-post dragging beneath it. He admitted his guilt last month.

Sentencing him yesterday at Aylesbury Magistrates' Court, Mr Jakobi told him there was no reasonable excuse for the journey. When Pennant, who lives in Barnet, north London, was stopped his eyes were glazed and his speech slurred.

A breath test found he was almost two and a half times the legal alcohol limit, with 85 micrograms per 100ml of breath, the court heard. The legal maximum is 35 micrograms per 100ml.

The former England Under-21 player had been banned from driving for 16 months in February last year after being seen travelling in the wrong lane in Paddington, west London. That suspension was later cut after he completed a special course.

Pennant pleaded guilty at last month's hearing to charges of drink-driving, driving while disqualified and using a vehicle without insurance.

Defending Pennant, Barry Warburton told the court he had never been in trouble during a difficult childhood in Nottingham and that the 22-year-old, the eldest of four children, grew up on "one of the worst estates" in the city. Pennant had only "intermittent" schooling, the court heard.

"When he left school and arrived at Arsenal, he had very little reading and writing skills. They have in fact educated him," said Mr Warburton, who claimed imprisonment "could completely destroy his career".

Taylor believes the prison term may be a turning point in Pennant's life.

"It's not entirely surprising, bearing in mind being a football player does not mean you are above the law, and the previous history gave an indication that there could be a custodial sentence," he said.

"It's a big disappointment for the lad and it's a serious situation and a real crisis in his career. He was a very promising youngster, Arsenal paid a lot of money for him and it's not quite worked out.

"Birmingham was a chance for him but this has interrupted that now," Taylor added. "The PFA will be trying to help him along with the necessary support of his family and friends."



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