For a player that racked up over 200 appearances for Tottenham Hotspur during his seven-and-a-half seasons there, Jermaine Jenas’ recent exit from White Hart Lane has hardly felt fitting of such respective service.
If you’d blinked, then the chances are you might have even missed Jenas’ recent deadline day move across London to join Harry Redknapp’s Queens Park Rangers side.
Amongst a raft of relatively low profile moves during the close of the January transfer window, Jenas’ was amongst those with the least fanfare. Which seems strange, considering we’re talking about a player capped 21 times by his country.
Although his phantom-like exit from the white side of North London seemed very much in fitting with the sort of demeanor that the former Newcastle United midfielder had managed to attain over recent years. In many ways, Jermaine Jenas has become English football’s most recent incarnation of the ‘forgotten man’.
But while he may be gone at White Hart Lane, this isn’t to say that he should necessarily be forgotten or erased from the annals of Tottenham’s recent history. Because for all the niggling injuries and the frustrating inconsistency that saw him come to represent a figure of derision towards the end of his Spurs career, was Jermaine Jenas really that underserving of anything resembling even a luke-warm send-off?
Whenever Jermaine Jenas’ name has been mentioned within the past few months amongst Spurs supporters, the term ‘wage-bill’ has usually closely followed. For fans, the 29-year-old was recently viewed as little more than a toxic asset clogging up desperately needed salary space that could be handed to a new recruit to boost the Andre Villas-Boas revolution.
And on a reported £45,000-a-week, you can see why supporters weren’t particularly enamored with the prospect of Jenas staying at the club past January. Still, the painful irony that Spurs are subsidizing his pay packet, despite finally seeking pastures new, will not be lost on most of those at White Hart Lane.
Yet for all the malaise that Jenas came to catalyze amongst sections of the home support, for a player who prompted such little fuss and generally held a great feeling of respect for both club and fanbase, you can’t help but feel he deserved to leave on slightly better terms.
His last appearance for Tottenham Hotspur, as a late substitute during the disappointing 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion earlier in the season, seemed another unfortunately fitting tribute for the latter half of his career in N17. Sluggish after an abject lack of recent matches, hampered by a skillset that offers little impact coming off the bench and under instant pressure from a set of fans that seem to offer him little patience, Jenas harried and hustled, but ultimately contributed little as his side went on to concede a late goal.
It’s within that lack of contribution, that many will herald as Jenas’ biggest failing during his time at Spurs and it’s true – his set of natural gifts should have produced so, so much more over a career that’s been fractured by both injury and an inability to sustain much in the way of good form.
Although perhaps in some ways, much of the malaise that’s been aimed his way in recent years, is testament to the foundations for growth that Jenas played his part in laying down for the club.
Of course, Jenas isn’t likely to get a look in within a squad that contains the talents of players such as Mousa Dembele, Sandro and Scott Parker that are all challenging for a starting berth in a side that are chasing a top four finish. But when Jermaine Jenas came to the club, he wasn’t handed a remit in line with such giddy expectations.
The likes of Martin Jol, Frank Arnesen, Daniel Levy and Harry Redknapp are all the figureheads that helped turn Spurs from upper-mid table revelers to Champions League tuned competitors and this isn’t to say that Jenas was some form of Captain Marvel like presence within the club’s relatively recent resurgence. But he played his part.
Jenas enjoyed a superb debut season at White Hart Lane and he was a prominent figure in the side that came painstakingly close to achieving a top four finish during the 2005-06 finish. Again, despite missing two months through injury, it was he who helped spur Marin Jol’s side onto another fifth placed finish the season after. Injury has so often robbed Jenas of a common flow throughout his career, but he’s still provided fans with plenty to cheer about.
Where as this year fans been lucky enough to celebrate the recently dubbed world-class talents Gareth Bale scoring against the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal away, once upon a time it was Jenas who was getting the away fans off their seats against both clubs.
A couple of spectacular goals don’t compensate for the countless matches in which Jenas went missing in action, but for as much frustration as he heaped on fans, he also gave them plenty of joy, too. Four goals came in North London derbies, including one on the road to the League Cup win in 2008 of which he played a pivotal part in.
At his very best, Jenas wasn’t quite a joy to watch, but he was a supremely athletic and wonderfully efficient box-to-box midfielder. Injury so often deprived him of the chance to mature and develop within the Tottenham Hotspur midfield and with each return to the treatment table, you get the impression a little more confidence was chiseled away from his game.
Jermaine Jenas wasn’t without his faults as a player and as the side developed and moved on, perhaps his time at the club well overstayed its natural course. But without rolling out the red carpet next time he finds himself returning to White Hart Lane, it’d be nice to see the home crowd give him more than just a tepid round of applause.