Now 35, Pennant, man of the match in a European Cup Final and twice close to major silverware, has published an autobiography which starts with some challenging memories of The Meadows.
No gratitude to the community in the first extract; instead, football was his only way out; dramatic stories – of a father who was a dealer; a mother who moved away; gangs in The Meadows, lined up against gangs from St.Ann’s; a set-to at a fried chicken restaurant in town, which led to a lad from St.Ann’s being kicked to death; a grand-auto style car chase.
I didn’t recall it being as bad as that, then. Later, I do know a teenage lad was shot and killed in The Meadows; and a teenage girl was shot and killed in St.Ann’s by an indiscriminate shot aimed into a group of girls fired from a moving car from The Meadows.
But we’d made progress from then. The council employed neighbourhood wardens. There was a major drive on gun crime. We were tough on the causes of crime. More jobs. Children’s centres. Higher attainment at schools. We had made significant progress.
Some of the progress has been lost. Now, we’ve had a period of knifings between dealers. Tackled, but the underlying causes – lack of proper jobs, insufficient earnings – not so visible, but witnessed by our schools – are ongoing and getting worse.
I was struck by an assertion by Pennant that he would still be at risk if he came back to The Meadows.
Jermaine Jenas survived a visit to The Meadows with a TV camera crew, about a year ago, but the risk factor seemed talked up given community activists who live on the featured Holgate Road have not reported any problems.
As for football, following goals put in at The Green, we are planning to improve the MUGA equipment at Queens Walk Rec., and possibly find some kit to install on Arkwright Walk. And we want to support local clubs more. But the finance is a challenge. Not saying either Jermaine should be obliged to help, but it would be nice. Not so much to help kids find a way out; just for the enjoyment of the game.