That was the weekend that was: Allardyce prefers Pennant flying low

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The Independent Online
SAM ALLARDYCE, the manager of the Second Division strugglers Notts County, threw one of the country's brightest teenage prospects into senior action in the FA Cup on Saturday - and then admitted he wished that nobody had heard of him.

Jermaine Pennant's 22-minute appearance as a substitute as County earned a replay with Sheffield United made him the second youngest player ever to appear in the competition. At 15 years 351 days he is 63 days older than Scott Endersby was when he played for Kettering against Tilbury 22 years ago.

Pennant's performance opened more Premiership eyes to a boy his club already regard as priceless. The England Schoolboy planned to sign a contract with County as soon as he reaches his 16th birthday on 16 January, but Allardyce fears his head will be turned by lucrative offers from elsewhere.

"I regret Jermaine playing for England Schoolboys now, because it alerted everyone to how good he is," Allardyce said. "Six or seven Premiership clubs are crawling all over him and offering him telephone-figure fees, the sort of money to turn anybody's head. How can we compete with that?"

Pennant cannot sign a legally-binding deal until he is 16 and that leaves a loophole for Premiership clubs to pounce. "He is a rare talent," Allardyce added. "We've looked after Jermaine since the age of 10 and done a lot of work with him. When a club takes on a local boy like that on and puts in so much work, the chairman and the fans have a right to see him come all the way through and make it into the first team. If we lose Jermaine, it will make me wonder what the point is of having a youth system."

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