JERMAINE PENNANT cannot wait for this weekend’s hotly-anticipated Premier League opener against newly-promoted Reading . . . even if it means waiting in the wings for the chance to get his Stoke City career back on the right track.
The 29-year-old feels the new campaign will give him a clean slate to build upon, as he looks to rediscover the form which made him a key member of the Potters side that reached the FA Cup Final during his first Britannia Stadium campaign in 2010-11.
Pennant is battling it out with Matthew Etherington and new signing Michael Kightly for places at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday, but even if he doesn’t get the nod to start, he is happy to bide his time and take his chance when it does finally come along.
“I just can’t wait for the season to get going now,” he said. “I’m really happy here, and whether I am starting on Saturday, sitting on the bench or even in the stands with the supporters, I’m really looking forward to it.
“It’s a very long season, so there will be many opportunities to play games, so if I don’t start against Reading I won’t let that bother me. There will be times when I am playing and times when I’m not, but that is the same for all of us.”
He added: “It’s nice to have competition for places out in the wide spots, obviously last year we had Ryan Shotton out there and he did a great job, but we have Michael here now too, who is an out-and-out winger.
“It means that the gaffer has choices now, and he knows that whether it be me, Matty or Michael who is going through a bit of a sticky patch, then he has a player who he can bring in to change things around a little bit.
“Everyone wants to start every week, obviously, so when you have the competition we have here now, you really do have to be at your maximum every week to get in, and then stay in the team. That can only be a good thing for the Club.”
The Potters travel to Berkshire at the weekend following a hectic six-week pre-season schedule, which has included matches in Switzerland, the United States and Germany.
Visa issues denied Pennant the opportunity of joining his team-mates on the two week tour of the US, but he was still able to build up his fitness ahead of the new season by working with the Club’s newly formed Under 21 development squad.
“Obviously, I was disappointed not to be able to travel because you want to be out there doing all of the work with the other lads, but for one reason or another I wasn’t able to go over to the States.
“I stayed behind though and worked just as hard with the younger lads here at the Club, and to be honest, I actually really enjoyed it.”
He added: “The training was good and I got all of my fitness work done which was important for me. That is what pre-season is all about, whether it be with the first team or with the Academy lads.
“As long as everything is done to make sure I am fit and raring to go in time for Saturday, just as I am, then everything is good.”