Spare Pennant jail, says Bruce

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The Independent Online

The Birmingham manager Steve Bruce believes help and guidance will benefit the winger Jermaine Pennant more than a prison term when he is sentenced for a second drink-driving offence today.

The Birmingham manager Steve Bruce believes help and guidance will benefit the winger Jermaine Pennant more than a prison term when he is sentenced for a second drink-driving offence today.

Pennant, on loan to Blues from Arsenal, was warned by the chairman of magistrates John Jakobi in January that he could face a spell in prison before deferring sentence.

The winger pleaded guilty to drink-driving plus driving without insurance while disqualified after being arrested at 6am in Aylesbury on 23 January after the Mercedes he was driving knocked over a lamp-post.

Bruce accepts Pennant has to be punished but insisted that Birmingham were doing everything "to put Jermaine on the straight and narrow" and that being put behind bars would not be a positive step in his rehabilitation. "My opinion is that a jail sentence would do Jermaine no good whatsoever," Bruce said. "We hope the judge will look at the situation and think, 'Birmingham have tried everything they could to help him.'

"We've got him in a flat up here, we've got him away from the distractions of London, we've had someone with him for the best part of every day and his girlfriend is playing a big part in that too. We've done everything we can to try and put him on the straight and narrow.

"We've all done stupid things when we were younger and he admits that now. As long as he learns from it, I don't think there is going to be any benefit from sending him to prison."

Bruce added: "He has been here a few weeks and he has been very good and I hope that continues for the next five or six years. Then we will see the best of him. We've had people watching over him. Sometimes people need education and help rather than being battered."

Both Bruce and the Birmingham chairman David Gold have volunteered to act as character witnesses and insist they will still want to sign Pennant on a permanent basis even if he is sent to prison.

Gold said: "Jermaine is with us for the rest of the season. We are committed to him for that period and, whatever happens [with his sentence], it will not affect us wanting to sign him permanently.

"Purely on the playing side, he has been a breath of fresh air for us and we believe we can make Jermaine into a great player and we feel he can learn from the mistakes he has made off the pitch."

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