Nottingham-born footballer Jermaine Pennant has opened up about what he describes as childhood trauma having grown up in The Meadows area of Nottingham. He speaks openly on his new podcast series ‘Brutally Honest’, where each episode features a guest to talk about how upbringings can shape people.
On the first episode, he speaks with psychiatrist Sean McNicholas, from New Me Therapy. During the episode, Jermaine speaks in detail about struggles with his parents, coping with money and fame, and women.
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On the podcast, Jermaine spoke about seeing drugs, crime and alcohol and coming from ‘a little bit of poverty’. He added: “My childhood was never settled or grounded.
“By the age of 10, I probably had four different stepmums, which in itself was crazy. I never had a mother around, so I never felt that maternal love.
“My dad did his best, but he was a young, single father at the time as well, he did what he could, but I craved the attention from women. Survival is all I knew growing up, from around eight years old I’d take myself to school, get myself dressed, take myself to football.
“I saw my siblings all grow up with their mother, get attention from their mother, and I always felt like the outcast. I’m eight years older than my brother, but his bedroom was his bedroom, it had his wallpaper and his nice bed, but I had two mattresses stacked up.
“I used to hate when my dad came to watch me play football, and I didn’t understand why. He would give me fierce instructions, he would come down off the stands, walk on to the side-lines and I was scared to be expressive and I didn’t want to get told off, but he must have wanted me to help the family.”
Jermaine says there is one thing in particular he would put a lot of his “mistakes” down to. He said: “Most of my mistakes have been to do with women. I’ve cheated, wanted attention, I’ve never really been faithful, I’ve been divorced, never settled and I’m thinking, why?
“Sometimes, everything is perfect, but then for some reason I would crave that elsewhere, is that because I’ve seen multiple women in my life from my dad going from one to another to another so I feel that’s the norm? Or am I craving attention I never received from my mother to fill that void?
“And that was one of my drink driving things. I was on my way to see a girl at 3am in the morning.”
Jermaine is now together with 32-year-old Jess Impiazzi, a model and reality TV star. He started his football career at Notts County, joining the youth ranks in 1993 before signing his first professional contract with the Magpies in 1998. He was scooped by Arsenal a year later and had loan spells at Watford, Leeds United and Birmingham City during that time.
He joined the latter on a permanent basis in 2005, before Liverpool signed him in 2006. He also made 24 appearances for England’s U21 side between 2001 and 2004, and says football was his “only escape”, but says he struggled to cope with money and fame at times in his professional career.
He added: “Football was my only escape, and I think that’s one of the reasons why my friends in Nottingham kept me out of a lot of crime they were getting themselves into, because they knew football was my way out. I’ve got to thank them for that, not pulling me along.
“Seeing so much was always going to be a difficult road for me, especially having no guidance, and that’s when professional income comes into it, attitude and getting a load of money and the advice on that was non-existent and I didn’t know how to cope.
“I always wanted to play for Liverpool, I’ve been a Liverpool fan since I could walk, and that was one of my main goals. That move came, and then I was in a nice house with a swimming pool and a tennis court.
“I played in the Champions League final (Jermaine played the full 90 minutes in the 2-1 loss to Milan in Athens in 2007) but I said to my manager soon afterwards I was not happy. Why would I feel not happy in that moment?”
Sean McNicholas, who has known Jermaine since he was 15, said: “A lot of behaviour and beliefs always come back from childhoods. I know that your (Jermaine’s) childhood was very hard and you went through many traumatic events from your mum, dad to the neighbourhood you live in.
“They’ve all had an impact on you in some way, shape or form. For example, when you drink, you drink a lot, so for me, when people drink a lot, it’s a coping mechanism.
“The question is, where is that pain coming from, why do you need that relief? You have other people like addicts who are sick in pleasure, moving away from pain towards pleasure, but why?”