There is nothing more valuable than peace of mind. Not in football and not in life. Having been found on a motorway in Salford, Manchester on April 30th last year, Aaron Lennon was clearly in pain. To see him smile broadly yesterday, without pretence, in a photo shoot having signed for Burnley was a warm thing to witness. A great thing even.
Aaron Lennon’s Recovery On and Off the Pitch Set to Continue Under Sean Dyche at Turf Moor
Delicate situations with people hurting are difficult to deal with. One newspaper report last year ran with a sub-headline that Lennon had been “picked up by cops”. Delicacy and sympathy were what such a situation needed. None there so. But luckily, the officers of the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) that spent 20 minutes with the now former Everton player showed the required awareness.
The NHS gets its ample share of criticism. Some relevant and justified, some possibly not. But health is not something where the public will and should have to expect less than the highest service level. So when an NHS Foundation Trust in the area, announced it had been undergoing a training programme with the GMP to help force-members understand and deal with mental health issues, it was reflective.
This was a week after Lennon, in turmoil, needed help. It was reflective of the officers on the scene who were capable and generous and warm. It doesn’t matter which way round you look at it. From an administration point of view things were being done right, and clearly, that was the case on the ground too.
A Return to a Warm Place
Lennon who had been detained under the Mental Health Act returned to pre-season training. In July they played FC Twente in the Stock Sportpark De Akker, the stadium of lower league Dutch side SV De Lutte. The crowd present was bulging onto the pitch’s perimeter, more to do with the quaint surroundings than an impassioned home crowd. A warm evening, Everton strode to a comfortable 3-0 win in the shade of what could have been horse chestnut trees. Imposing in size, but welcoming in its environment.
Lennon, alongside prodigal son Wayne Rooney, entered the fray on 62 minutes. Within ten minutes he had added to Kevin Mirallas’s first half-strike; a strike that glided into the top right-hand corner, the ball doing its best to nestle itself in the stanchion of the goal post. Lennon’s goal was also garnered from creating space, despite his typically direct style of play. His footwork as nimble as ever, his finish tidy, his celebration muted but warm.
Muted because of the heavy weather that comes in July along the eastern Netherlands, bordering with Germany. Not quite the maritime influenced climate from the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean synonymous with Amsterdam or Rotterdam. But that heavy inland feeling, airless and oppressive.
Warm because of the reaction of his teammates. Sincerity in Rooney’s cordial reaction. The no-thought turn of heel of a quintet of players, sauntering to their teammate to congratulate him.
The Need For Change
Lennon though hasn’t set Goodison Park alight this season like he can. Lennon has played in 15 of Everton’s Premier League games this season, only starting nine, however. With no goals or assists, his place in the sides starting eleven was by no means guaranteed. And then Theo arrived.
Theo Walcott rushed his belongings into black sacks and dashed to Goodison Park, eager to impress, looking for a fresh start after slipping from Arsenal’s central cast, written out of the narrative by Arsene Wenger. Sam Allardyce welcomed the former Southampton winger with open, embracing arms. There’s little doubt that at £20m and the club 17 points away from a sniff of Europe, that Walcott will not just be an immediate starter, but someone on whom much hope will sit.
With that, there was an inevitability to Lennon’s departure. His place in the hierarchy was irreversibly altered. Turf Moor and Sean Dyche seemed a good fit. Based on what Dyche can get from players with limited natural ability, it’s intriguing to see what awaits Lennon.
In Full Flow
Dyche and his assistant Ian Woan along with first-team coach Tony Loughlan were in celebratory mood themselves anyway this week. The triumvirate has been rewarded with doing the most substantial of jobs in bringing Burnley to heights that may be heady, but also deserving. The trio have signed contract extensions until 2022. Under the tutelage of Dyche, they had plenty to be grateful for. And not a worm in sight to celebrate.
But the arrival of Lennon must excite a manager of practicality, whose magic comes from hard work. In Lennon, he has an honest player who can run at defences, who, with a low centre of gravity, can move off either foot with pace. But also when in full flow, there is nothing like the sight of him charging at defenders. With that, he needs an end product. And that’s it. He has an end product.
Polished and accurate in his passing, Lennon’s precision is deep-rooted. When playing into space and with confidence, he is a vision. His shooting, when honed, is embedded with accuracy.
Ultimately it’s the freedom Lennon can play with. The abandonment of fear, slaloming into tight areas and illuminating games with moments of intense brightness.
There will be nothing as engaging as watching Aaron Lennon, in claret and sky blue, brightening up games with his lightness of foot and deft footwork. He deserves it.
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