Jermaine Pennant bravely opens up on his childhood trauma and battles with depression and alcohol abuse

Jermaine Pennant candidly spoke about his childhood trauma and battles with depression and addiction.

The former Liverpool, Arsenal and Birmingham star has had trouble throughout his career and has been to prison when he was playing.


Pennant had a turbulent start to life

Pennant has admitted to binge-drinking and addictions while battling depression, something he now realises was down to childhood trauma.

In light of Dele Alli’s harrowing story he opened up to Gary Neville, Pennant bravely opened up on talkSPORT about his own past.

“What I’d do, I’d play up. Because I had so much trauma and so much darkness inside me that no one never knew,” Pennant said live on talkSPORT.

“I was embarrassed to tell my story, what I went through, where I came from, what I saw.

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“I was abandoned by my mother when I was three, my father had me on weekends and when he took me back and my mum was never there.

“My father raised me to the best of his abilities and I was around six or seven, he then neglected me.

“So I would take myself to school, make my own dinners, which was Cornflakes. It got to the point where my mates would call me ‘The Cornflake Kid’, because that’s all I’d eat.

“Then my dad got into drugs, people coming in an out of the house, I’d say he was an addict. So I had no mum, no father, surrounded by drugs, guns and crime.”

Alli had reflected on his football career and tough childhood on 'The Overlap'


Alli had reflected on his football career and tough childhood on ‘The Overlap’Credit: The Overlap
Pennant has opened up to talkSPORT about his own struggles


Pennant has opened up to talkSPORT about his own strugglesCredit: The Mega Agency

Pennant went on to explain that his trauma followed him throughout his career and had an adverse effect.

“I couldn’t handle certain situations,” Pennant added. “When I signed for Liverpool, in my second year I spoke to my agent. Obviously as a Liverpool fan from a kid, it was a dream come true. But I had a conversation where I said, ‘I don’t know why I’m unhappy, I don’t understand it’.

“I’ve got everything I want, an amazing house, play for the club I’ve dreamed about as a little kid but I was depressed. Because I had so much hurt and trauma as a child that I never got over.

“It was causing me so much pain and when things weren’t going great on the pitch, I’d unleash it in any way possible.

“I’d want to go out, to be around people, I’d try anything as pain relief, to get drunk, binge drink, to numb the pain.”

In 2005 while at Birmingham, Pennant was sent to prison after pleading guilty to drink-driving and driving while disqualified, receiving a 90-day prison sentence.

He was allowed out after 30 days but had to wear an electronic tag, even when he was on the pitch.

But it was Steve Bruce, then manager of the Blues, who acted as the winger’s fatherly figure when his actual father did not want to know.

Bruce went to see Pennant in prison


Bruce went to see Pennant in prison

“I was on loan at Birmingham and was sent to prison for 30 days and Steve wanted me to sign,” he continued.

“He came to visit me in prison, he said, ‘I want to come and see you’. Not to talk about signing for Birmingham.

“To come and see me, as a person, as a young lad, to see how I was doing and my health.

“It was weird because everyone knew who he was. Everyone was looking around in the meeting room but that meant a lot.

“My father didn’t come. He wasn’t there. What Dele is saying about Poch [Mauricio Pochettino], I had the same with Steve. He understood me.

“He never punished me, he would get angry but he would never punish me. He would always try play me as I was one of his star players and he’d put his arm around me and say, ‘you alright?’

“That was probably one of the best periods of my career, got a move to Liverpool off the back of it.

“Most managers that I have had have thrown me away, go and train with the kids, never had a conversation where they’d ask me if I was alright, everything alright in the head, everything okay at home?

Pennant admitted he was unhappy at Liverpool - despite it being his dream club


Pennant admitted he was unhappy at Liverpool – despite it being his dream club

“No one has ever asked that question, they just thought, ‘you are a bad lad and I’m going to punish you'”.

However, Pennant has since turned his life around and credits this to going to therapy, which gave him an eye-opening experience.

He said: “I thought I was a loose cannon. That is who I am, I make mistakes, I’m not trustworthy and my life was falling apart.

“I sat down and I thought, ‘what is wrong with me?’ This is multiple times throughout my career. When I went to prison, when I came out.

“Things sometimes just didn’t change. I was going over things and making the same mistakes. I thought, ‘what am I doing? How many kids would give an arm and a leg to be a professional footballer?’

“Why do I keep making mistakes? What is wrong with me? Again, I didn’t understand the trauma, I didn’t understand ADHD [Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder]. I was only diagnosed last year.

“I went to a therapist to try get some answers and I did and it has helped amazingly. They did this test with me called an ACE test.

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“They ask you ten questions and the higher you are, the higher risk you are of health risks such as alcoholism, drug use, depression, suicide.

“I scored nine out of ten, I was like ‘wow’ when they told me and without help, I would have continued to make the same mistakes.”

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