Football people on TV: Jermaine Jenas

Date published: Friday 27th May 2016 10:13 - Sarah Winterburn

This week it’s MOTD’s youngest-ever regular pundit. Johnny admires how well JJ’s skin fits his head…but the PFMs have issues with him…


Fashion police
Although a mere 33, he’s quite a conservative dresser. Heavyweight mercerised cotton shirts with a slightly stylish collar, is as adventurous as he might get. Pleasing lack of DJ or rapper-style ambition. Everything is male, plain and expensive-looking, mostly shades of black, blue or white. Sometimes looks very (and endearingly) boyish and thus when in a suit and tie, can appear as though dressed by his mother for a christening.

Hair, when freshly cut, sometimes resembles a slightly too small swimming cap.

Has the recent ex-pro’s enviable low body fat percentage, shoulders that go on forever and legs that just won’t quit. A very open, warm, good-natured grin makes him very accessible and he has that gap between his front teeth which increases anyone’s cute quotient.

Well-moisturised skin seems to fits perfectly, with nothing loose or sagging, he’s a young 33, especially compared to fellow pundit Charlie Adam, who is somehow three (albeit Scottish) years younger.


Lingo bingo
A Nottingham lad who has lived down south for a while but still retains some of that distinctive bluff Notts accent, which seems comprised of a big dollop of Yorkshire, a thin slice of Midlands, and a seasoning of rural Lincolnshire. “Stop” is “staup”,  “out” is “aut”,  “Tottenham” is “Tottnum”.

Posseses a soft, calm, well-measured voice which is easy on the ear and unlike some, he doesn’t easily get stirred into a shouting match under the delusion that the loudest voice is always speaking the most sense.

Apparently uses the word ‘diag’ as a bit of an individual word riff. Can’t say I’ve noticed this.


Hits and misses
Lots of hits. Firstly having a dad called Dennis who changed his surname from Genas to Jenas purely so his initials could be DJ. Good work, that. Being called JJ is also quite cool. Outside of football, getting on Question Time and advocating an increase in higher rate of tax for public services, attracted many plaudits, as did his ability to generally hold his own on the show, though it’s hardly a Brains Trust environment. Proved that a footballer can impress in ways other than by showing you their expensive watch.

He’s the youngest regular pundit ever to appear on Match of the Day and seems to have gone from being a perma-crocked player to high-profile, well-respected media bod in no time at all. The nice thing about the BBC is, if you show some aptitude, they will give you time to grow and learn. At first he was a bit overly milky and inoffensive, but he’s quickly developed into a thoughtful sort who isn’t going to default to footballer-speak too often. Also, he clearly really enjoys the job and seems keen to develop into a major talent.

For a relative newcomer he is already a decent interviewer. His chat with Harry Kane last year was of a higher standard than you normally get and was surely partly because JJ was still technically a player at the time, albeit about 10 years older than Kane. The recent player can deliver the goods when talking to current players that the old sweats often can’t, because there’s a trust and implicit understanding between them.

Works on 5live too, as both a pundit and co-comm. Always brings knowledge of current culture of players and of football as a whole. Welcome critic of overpaying youngsters who aren’t even playing first-team football. Knows a lot about injuries and how much they really bloody hurt.

There are those who criticised him for going on a programme like Question Time, some suggesting he wasn’t bright enough. That wasn’t true, and besides, that programme is full of old farts, blow hards and arse biscuits shouting pre-prepared soundbites as though it’s wisdom, while vomiting disinformation and ill-informed, half-digested, blinkered perceptions to an audience of the bewildered, so any footballer you can name would hardly drag proceedings down an intellectual notch. That being said, it always feel weird when someone you’re really familiar within a football context, suddenly appears on your TV outside of that context. Feels a bit like when you used to see a teacher out of school, shopping in Tesco and for a moment, you couldn’t quite believe they even existed outside of the classroom. Personally, I’d love to see Merse on QT. Can you imagine? Would be great if he kept addressing Dimbleby as Jeff and referring to David Cameron as ‘wotsisname’.


Big club bias
Seems very, very grounded and very much not a big-time Charlie. Also has shown an impressive lack of bias or noticeable affection towards his ex-clubs such a Spurs and Newcastle. This is a common trait amongst the best TV and radio workers.


Loved or loathed
My social media research hardly had a bad word to say about him. Universally acknowledged as a decent man. The word ‘nice’ came up a lot. There was some feeling that though a pleasant bloke, he’s a bit insubstantial in the pundit role and, like the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind, has benefited from being the cleverest one in the stupid class.

Someone felt he was ‘Punditbot2000, programmed to sound clever, but never too interesting’. That seems a bit harsh to me, I find him constantly interesting. Others commented that perhaps he was a bit too nice and thus held back on his criticism with one saying ‘so nice it’s hard to believe he was an international central midfielder rather than, say, a botanist’. Another comment was that they could imagine him as a ‘competent financial advisor’.

I know what they all mean, but feel strongly that there’s plenty of room for some more niceness in football media because there’s far too much horribleness, ignorance and gob-open stupidity. Many said how well he spoke and I think that’s very true. He’s a very good talker and you never feel that English is his second language, that he’s recently had a stroke, or is in the middle of some sort of ongoing brain aneurysm, which is something you can’t say about everyone who works in football.

One reader reported meeting JJ at 5am in a fast food joint in Ibiza and reported him as ‘quite drunk but very pleasant’. Another reported a friend lived next door to Ma Jenas and reported her a wonderful woman. Maybe that’s why JJ turned out so well.


Proper Football Man
Ticks more of the PFM boxes than you might initially think. Box-to-box midfielder with a good engine. Loved Sir Robby Bobson. Sir Ferg wanted to sign him. Has said ‘Arry is good with players. Turned out for QPR when so broken that all his limbs had to be attached with Sellotape and cow glue. And JJ is a great nickname which any PFM would be proud to shout across a crowded casino or strip joint.

Has said the words “top top player” on the telly. Good incisive PFM-style work, that.

Has also said the Newcastle side he played in was ‘a team of men’ and the PFMs love to hear that sort of talk, as they feel they are all a man’s man and basically not Olivier Giroud in anyway whatsover, no offence, like but y’know, bloody hell have you seen him?

Also has a well-upholstered ex-model wife, which is a classic PFM choice of female companion, because at the end of the day, Jeff, they mostly work on the basis that size of bra, like pucker watches, cars and mock Tudor houses, is an indication of quality.

However, there are problems JJ, son. For a start we don’t like these reports of you being only a little drunk and being pleasant at 5am in a fast food place in Spain. What the hell are you playing at?! These are the times when you earn your PFM points by shouting loudly at foreigners about how rubbish their food is. Then you make a sexist comment about a lovely lady and almost get into a fight with her boyfriend, no offence, but saying she’s got lovely tits is a compliment, mate…who won the bloody war anyway? And anyway if you’re still upright at 5am and are not in possession of a shopping trolly with a diminutive ex-pro inside wrapped in cling film, then you’re letting us all down with your PC ways.

We all know these are the moments you playfully grab a local in a headlock and make vaguely racist assertions about his character and then complain that he can’t take a joke when he reports you to the police, forcing you to bribe your way out of jail with a mixture of cash and season tickets. And where was Miss Bin Bag Body of 1995, anyway? And why weren’t you in the finest sticky-floored nightclub, PantzOff all night? No no no. This is no good JJ. No good at all. Reidy and Brazil have drunk more alcohol in the last hour than you’ve drunk in your whole life. We can’t be ‘avin that, lad. Also being drunk while on holiday doesn’t count. You need to be drunk on a school night, having consumed one of Reidy’s snake oil, psilocybe and sangria cocktails, served in a septic tank. I think we all know that would kill a lightweight like you JJ. Shame. I love saying JJ, JJ.

Come back and apply again when you’re 59, have been divorced twice and weigh 17 stone. You also need to work up some chippy anti-foreigner material, based entirely on self-regarding lies that only stupid people believe, and also keep telling anyone on the telly who’ll listen, how brilliant Sherwood is as a manager. Got it? Good. Now f**k off.


Beyond the lighted stage
Wiki tells me that he and a friend set up the Aquinas Foundation, which offers football tickets to truant students at disadvantaged schools in Nottingham and London, if they can achieve a 100% attendance. Reading more about the foundation, it seems a wholly noble venture, though, as ever, one can’t help but feel that it is the neglect of the state, coupled with a broken value and economic system, that is being bailed out of its responsibilities by the money and good soul of a footballer.

JJ is surely the only pundit who can claim to have been on telly cooking a jerk chicken tart on Bake Off and also to have done a show with Tony Robinson about what it was to like to live in different eras in history.

If I might posit a guess, I’d say he’s on a fast track to huge football media success stretching into the next 25 years. He’ll be fine. He’s the next Gary, Gary.


John Nicholson

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