Pennant seeks redemption after breaking curfew

Bill Pierce
Friday 20 December 2013 02:39
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Arsenal's wayward striker Jermaine Pennant will be given the chance to rebuild his career at Highbury after publicly apologising for his behaviour on international duty with the England Under-21 squad.

Pennant, who figured in a £2m deal when Arsenal signed him at 16 from Notts County in November 1999, was sent home from the England training camp last week by the Under-21's coach, David Platt, after breaking a curfew at the team's hotel.

It is said he did not arrive back at the hotel in Portugal until breakfast time on the morning after a defeat by the hosts. He was promptly dismissed by the former Arsenal player Platt, who was preparing the squad for another match against Turkey.

The winger has already been fined by Arsenal over the matter but the Highbury manager Arsène Wenger is willing to give him a second chance.

Now Pennant has apologised to Platt as well as Wenger and the Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, vowing: "I want this to be the turning point in my career.

"I know I made a mistake and so I have apologised to the three main people who look after my football. I rang them to say sorry and promised it won't happen again. You do learn from your mistakes and now I am just going to get my head down, work hard in training and get my attitude right towards getting back in the first-team squad."

Pennant, now 20, became Arsenal's youngest-ever first-team player when he appeared in a Worthington Cup tie at Middlesbrough when still a couple of months short of his 17th birthday.

He has rarely figured in the senior side since then and has had two spells on loan at Watford, but he insists he is still determined to make the grade at Highbury and did himself some good on Monday when he scored for the reserves in a 4-1 win over Coventry City.

More significantly for Arsenal's hopes of retaining the domestic Double, the England left-back Ashley Cole made his third reserve team appearance since last month's hernia operation. He has now declared his fitness for Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United and the following Wednesday's key Premiership match with Manchester United.

"I'm not completely satisfied with my fitness yet," Cole said. "I don't think two games is quite enough for me to be fully match fit, but that will come after some hard work in training and then I'll be fine."

Cole underwent surgery on 27 February after carrying the injury for some time. The operation cost him five weeks of first-team football, but it should ensure he is fresh and free of pain for the home straight of the Premiership title race. "I don't feel any reaction from the injury but I need to get the sharpness back," said Cole. "I'm still a bit stiff but the specialists said that's natural from the operation.

"I think it was the right time to have the operation because I couldn't move properly after games, but now I'm free and able to do so. Hopefully I can get fit and play a part in the final games of the season."

Cole appeared as a late substitute in Arsenal's 1-1 draw at Aston Villa on Saturday and will be a welcome addition to a defence still without the injured Martin Keown and now suspended Pascal Cygan.

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