Jermaine Pennant was once regarded as one of English football’s most exciting young talents.
Arsenal spent £2 million of the winger back in January 1999 - a record fee for a trainee at the time - despite the fact he had only made a couple of appearances for Notts County.
Arsene Wenger and his backroom staff had seen and heard enough about the Nottingham-born starlet to convince them to bring him to Highbury - and in November that year, aged 16 years and 319 days, he became the Gunners’ youngest ever first team player by featuring against Middlesbrough in the League Cup.
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It would be another three years before Pennant would make his full Premier League debut - but he marked it in style.
Aged 20 at the time, the lad who became Britain’s most expensive teenager four years earlier scored a superb hat-trick against Southampton, who were battered 6-1 at the Gunners’ home stadium. Robert Pires also got himself on the scoresheet three times in the rout.
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Stack reveals what Pennant did the night before debut
Scoring a hat-trick on your full Premier League debut is impressive in its own right - but the feat has now been made more remarkable following a fascinating and revealing story told by Arsenal’s former back-up goalkeeper Graham Stack.
“I remember Pennant making his debut down at the old St Mary's [it was actually at Highbury, Graham],” Stack said on The Magic Sponge podcast, per the Mirror. “He'd gone out on a Friday, as he was partial to a night out. He wasn't involved in the match day squad and I think a couple went down sick the night before the game.
"So Ricey [Pat Rice, former Arsenal assistant manager] has phoned him in the morning and said 'We're gonna send you a car, get yourself down to St Mary's as you'll be involved'.
"Pennant's only just got in at this stage - he's probably got in at 5 or 6 in the morning! So Pennant has made his way down to St Mary's and he's starting!
"He must be thinking, 'Jesus Christ, I've only had two hours sleep and that was in the car down here!'. And he ended up scoring a hat trick, didn't he! I think once you do that, you think to yourself "I'm invincible, I can do this every week."
Perhaps he should have gone on more nights out before playing for Arsenal.
Pennant's career has taken some strange twists since
Pennant never scored another goal for Arsenal and was offloaded to Birmingham City for £3 million in April 2005.
He then sealed a move to Liverpool a year later and finished as a runner-up in the 2007 Champions League final - but his career has taken some strange twists and turns since leaving Anfield in 2009.
Following a brief spell with Real Zaragoza in Spain, Pennant returned to England in 2011 and spent three years with Stoke City.
He has since had spells with FC Pune City, Wigan Athletic and Tampines Rovers.
Pennant, now 34, is currently on the books of Bury after joining the League One outfit as a free agent in January.
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