Jenas to crown memorable week with Under-21 debut

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Jermaine Jenas drives a Peugeot 206, but when the England Under-21 manager, David Platt, talks about the game's latest teenage prodigy he describes a player with the attributes of a Rolls-Royce.

A week ago, Jenas became the second most expensive teenager, behind Robbie Keane, in English football history when he completed a £5m move from Nottingham Forest to Newcastle. The attacking midfielder, 19 next week, makes his England Under-21 debut in tonight's friendly in Slovenia.

It was Platt who gave Jenas his Forest debut during his brief spell in charge at the City Ground, and he has the utmost faith in his young protégé.

"When I first went in at Forest I went to watch the youth cup games and there was this phenomenon called Jermaine Jenas," said Platt. "He was still at school, but he was playing in the youth cup side and he was a colossus in that.

"Nothing surprises me with the boy. He just takes everything in his stride and I don't think anything surprises him either. He is very assured and confident in himself and his own ability, and there is no side to him.

"Jermaine will start the game and it will not faze him in any shape or form. Similarly, going to Newcastle and coming on for his Premiership debut for 15 minutes didn't faze him.

"It is very difficult to find a weakness in him. He can pass off both feet. He has got an unbelievable engine. He has got a great attitude. He can pass it short or long. He can score a goal. He is an athlete. He leaps and wins headers. He can sit in midfield, play as an attacking midfielder, or play in a variety of positions. He is quick and he is strong."

As Platt said, Jenas comes across as a likeable and assured young man and, having represented England at every level from Under-15 to Under-19, he is determined to make the most of his chance in Nova Gorica.

"I am just glad to be given the chance to prove myself," said Jenas. "Everything has happened so quickly for me this past week, but that is the way things are in football and everybody at Newcastle has looked after me brilliantly.

"It is flattering to hear what people are saying about me, especially as they are people who have been and done it. For them to look at me and say I have got certain attributes is very flattering. It is enjoyable also, and I get a lot of confidence when people like David Platt talk to me and help me along.

"I have to pinch myself sometimes because only a couple of years ago I was playing schoolboy football for Nottingham Forest, and now I have got people like David Platt and Bobby Robson saying good things about me, and their reputations speak for themselves.

"I have been able to keep my feet on the ground because I have a good family behind me and I had a good grounding at Forest. I am still in contact with their manager, Paul Hart, and he helps me all the time.

"At the start of the season I set myself some goals. One was to get into the Forest first team, which happened quickly, and another was to get into the Under-21 set-up."

Jenas is one of 16 players who travelled to Slovenia yesterday. The Arsenal defender Matthew Upson withdrew from the squad with an ankle injury, and the Bayern Munich midfielder Owen Hargreaves pulled out with a swollen knee.

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