From Premier League star to football pundit, Jermaine Jenas wouldn’t have achieved his success without the support he enjoyed growing up in Nottingham.
Here the former England and Nottingham Forest midfielder reflects on the sports facilities that helped launch his career – and urges readers to complete the census.
Answers you give help decision makers assess local needs and provide vital amenities in your area, such as community spaces and leisure facilities.
By JERMAINE JENAS
A big part of my routine growing up was Mum taking me to training on Tuesday and Thursday nights at the ground of my local team Clifton. Mum and I still talk about it to this day.
As a footballing community we did everything together, and there were pitches absolutely everywhere. My house overlooked the local school pitch and from my bedroom window, I could see whether a game was on. I’d run out, and find they’d purposely not invited me because they wanted an easy game!
I’d play football with kids six or seven years older than me, and 15-year-olds don’t like being embarrassed – my area was quite tough, so they’d end up trying to take me out, sometimes waist high. But it shaped me as a person, it helped me develop.
Whatever situation I went into, like my first day at secondary school feeling nervous, people would say: “You’re Jermaine and you play for this team or that team.” I used to think: “Football’s carrying me again.”
The schools had acres of land. Some had as many as nine pitches, and those facilities were invaluable to me – especially in the summer holidays. There was so much opportunity in terms of the different types of facility: concrete, grass, indoor, outdoor, small pitches, big pitches. I’d no excuse not to play, so I was out of the house 24/7.
Now more than ever in this digital world, kids are becoming closed off. Mental health concerns are increasing, and I believe a key component is kids not having the opportunity to go out and explore and meet their friends, have those places to go to and gain that level of confidence they need to develop into healthy, happy human beings.
If you share those concerns about your own area, filling in the census here is a chance to make your voice heard. It takes around 10 minutes per person to complete the form – that’s short enough for you to do during half time. So, the next game you’re watching, when half-time comes, fill out the form. Simply visit census.gov.uk.
Every sport that I can play now, I learnt as a kid because the facility was there. For those facilities not to be there now or in the future really scares me, which is why it’s so important to fill in the census – as it helps build a picture of what services are needed in your community.
The census only takes around 10 minutes per person to complete. And if you can’t get online to fill in the form, a Census Support Centre will help you do it (the centres will obviously only open where it’s safe to, and they follow Covid-19 rules), or you can request a paper version if you need it. Filling in your census will hopefully ensure facilities are added or improved for the next generation. I know how much impact they had on my life and how much they benefited me.
Take part in Census 2021 to make sure your community’s needs are represented. Visit census.gov.uk to find out more.