Jermaine Jenas has always looked younger than he is.
Baby-faced and slim, he wriggles and weaves his way through midfields like an eel in springtime. But not often enough.
Jenas has flattered to deceive at Newcastle, at Tottenham Hotspur, and at various England levels. Television highlights will show Jenas at his best, inspired and exciting.
But spectators who see the full story know that this midfielder is prone to drifting out of the game and into oblivion for long stretches.
Jenas impressed as an England junior from Under 16’s upwards to the senior side, and cost Newcastle £5m from his native Nottingham. But after a promising start at St James Park, he faded into unhappiness, and moved south for Spurs, for £7m. That move was on deadline day exactly six years before his transfer to Villa.
At full England level, it’s no surprise that Sven Goran Eriksson admired Jenas’ skills more than his more demanding successor Fabio Capello did.
Jenas made the Swede’s 2006 World Cup Squad as a 23 year-old. Stylish, flash and youthful looking. A typical product of football’s wag-time era. One of Sven’s young men.
But at club and international level Jenas was inconsistent and failed to influence a game.
Capello opted for the sturdier ex-Aston Villa midfielder, Gareth Barry.
Now Jenas has the chance to reinvent himself again.
Villa fans will be hoping that this talented player—no longer a youngster—can show a bit more grit and consistency.
He will do well to study the style of his new club captain.
Bulgarian international Stilyan Petrov, at 32, is slowing down a little.
But he knows where to be, and when. He tackles hard and rarely gives the ball away.
It’s not too late in Jenas’ career for him to learn from a perfect midfield role model.