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England ace turned TV pundit Jermaine Jenas: 'There are sharks everywhere in football'

TV presenter and ex-footballer Jermaine Jenas wishes he was taught about money before he earned millions and reveals his delight about his TV career

Jermain Jenas. Image: PR supplied

Footballer turned TV presenter Jermaine Jenas has admitted that he did not achieve everything he hoped for in the game – and that it makes him feel physically sick to think about it.

Jenas broke into the England squad as a teenager, became one of the most expensive young players in the game when Newcastle United manager Bobby Robson spent £7m on him in 2002, played in the Champions League, won the League Cup with Tottenham Hotspur and was part of the 2006 England World Cup squad.

Yet in a new interview with The Big Issue, he revealed that as a teenager he had expected to achieve even more from the sport.

“I didn’t do what I set out to achieve in football,” Jenas said. “It’s not spoken about enough in sport – we see all the success stories but there’s more people that live with regrets.

“I played for England, played Champions League football, went to a World Cup, won a major trophy, and played in every great stadium there is. But I think if I was to tell my younger self, he would have said that’s good, but you should have done more. 

“It’s something I’ve found very hard to make peace with. Even saying it now physically makes me feel sick. So I have to tell myself well done, you achieved things in the game. But from a sporting perspective, my younger self would ask me a few questions.”

In the wide-ranging interview for The Big Issue’s regular Letter to My Younger Self feature, Jenas talks about his upbringing in Nottingham on one of Europe’s biggest council estates, about how his father schooled him in dealing with racism, and how he had to learn the hard way about dealing with the wealth that comes with a professional football career.

“There are sharks everywhere in football,” he said. “So I would tell my younger self to educate himself properly. We’re not taught about financial stuff in school but all of a sudden, I was 18 years old, getting signed by Newcastle United as the third most expensive teenager on the planet, and given all this money.

“I was buying cars. I was going crazy. It sounds like a dream, but nobody in my family had ever had money so nobody could tell me what to do.”

He revealed how the intervention of two of his lifelong friends kept him on the straight and narrow.  

“You have to have good people around you, and I’ve always had my two best friends,” he continued. “Craig and Warren are very down to earth lads and kept me grounded.

“When I bought my first Ferrari and came back to Nottingham thinking I was the guy, they said, no one’s got any money, just leave it at home and come for a drink. They were there to give me a slap on the head if got too big for my boots.”

If he did not quite scale the heights he feels he should have with the talent and work he put in, Jenas said his post-football career was better than he could ever have imagined. Ten years on from his retirement from football, Jermaine Jenas is now a regular host on The One Show, has presented and been a pundit on Match of The Day, and is the new host of Formula E on TNT Sports.

“None of us saw a future for me on television,” he said. “When I found that I was never going to play football again, it was really hard. Dragging myself from that place – because it was lonely, man. You’re not speaking to your friends, you’ve got nowhere to go, you’re not going to train – it is a horrible place to be.

“I just didn’t see this coming. I didn’t plan for it. It wasn’t like when I was younger and had a vision for the next 10 or 15 years. So at first it was just about getting through the next day. And then I started to dream about this second career. So my younger self would look at me and be in awe that I’ve done Match of The Day and interviewed Dolly Parton on The One Show.”

Jermaine Jenas presents Formula E on TNT Sports.

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