Jermaine Jenas reveals struggle with ‘imposter syndrome’ during international career

Former England midfielder Jermaine Jenas has revealed he battled with ‘imposter syndrome’ during his international career due to perceived preferential treatment of star players.

Jenas won 21 caps for England and was included in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s 2006 World Cup squad but was never a regular starter.

Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy which persist despite evident success.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Jermaine Jenas, right, was in the shadow of the likes of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard during his England career (Neil Tingle/PA)</figcaption>
Jermaine Jenas, right, was in the shadow of the likes of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard during his England career (Neil Tingle/PA)

Ex-Newcastle and Tottenham player Jenas described the international set-up under Eriksson as an exclusive “boys’ club” and felt it had a detrimental effect on peripheral members of the squad.

“I had a couple of moments struggling with imposter syndrome throughout my career as a player,” said Jenas, speaking on a new podcast which will be released on Monday, August 17.

“It was playing for England and it was nothing to do with my ability or my deserving of the position I was in.

“It was more to do with your surroundings. It’s a bit like the ‘England Boys’ Club’. They’re part of the England Boys’ Club and you’re there but you’re not quite there, if you know what I mean?

You would kind of turn up to England and be like, 'I'm not going to get a game here and I don't really feel part of it'.

“During my time playing for England we had Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes. They were world-class players playing for Chelsea, Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal, all legends of the game.

“And no matter how well I was playing, how well I was training – there was myself, Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves – we were just on the fringes.

“We just couldn’t seem to break through because the manager was set in his ways of, ‘They’re world-class players, they start and that’s it’.

“So you would kind of turn up to England and be like, ‘I’m not going to get a game here and I don’t really feel part of it’.”

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Jermaine Jenas, left, was an unused member of England’s 2006 World Cup squad (Martin Rickett/PA)</figcaption>
Jermaine Jenas, left, was an unused member of England’s 2006 World Cup squad (Martin Rickett/PA)

Jenas, who also represented hometown club Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and QPR, made his final international appearance under Fabio Capello in a friendly against Brazil in 2009.

The 37-year-old believes the current England set-up is better placed to deal with the issues he faced because manager Gareth Southgate had similar experiences.

“The best thing right now is we’ve got a manager for England who basically was a player who was on the fringes,” Jenas said of Southgate, who won 57 caps.

“He wasn’t a Beckham, a Gerrard, he was a player that came in every now and again when somebody wasn’t fully fit.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>England manager Gareth Southgate, pictured, understands the needs of squad players, according to Jermaine Jenas (Tim Goode/PA)</figcaption>
England manager Gareth Southgate, pictured, understands the needs of squad players, according to Jermaine Jenas (Tim Goode/PA)

“He understands more than anybody what it is like and how important it is for those players on the fringes to be more involved if anything.”

Jenas retired in 2014 and has moved into punditry, including working on Match of the Day.

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