Aaron Lennon’s career has come to an end after the player announced his retirement from the game at the age of 35 on the 15th November 2022. Lennon was known for his pacy wing play and attacking style but also in his later career, for bringing attention to mental health issues. From Leeds United to Tottenham Hotspur , Burnley and Everton, Lennon has been a model professional who has fought his demons on and off the pitch.
Born in Leeds – Aaron Lennon’s Career – Early Days
Lennon was born in Leeds and it was with his hometown club of Leeds United that he began his playing career in 2003. At the time, he was the youngest players to appear in the Premier League. He was spotted at the tender age of eight years old and hit another ‘youngest ever’ record at just 14 when Adidas sponsored his boots. The pace and skill of Lennon excited the Leeds fans but also caught the eyes of suitors at other clubs and ironically, the club that Lennon made his first appearance against was to be his next destination and undoubtedly the place where he made his name – Tottenham Hotspur.
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Born in Leeds, Made in Tottenham
By 2005, Aaron Lennon’s career was to take a new turn as he joined North London club Tottenham for £1 million. Leeds did not want to sell the player but the West Yorkshire club were experiencing much publicised financial issues and Spurs used that to leverage what was a bargain. The fast, attacking style and wide wing play was appreciated by the Spurs fans and he was quickly taken to their hearts. His performances led to him being nominated for the 2005/06 and 2006/07 PFA Young Player of the Year awards. Although he didn’t win, the nominations were testament to his play and attitude to the game. What often was overlooked with Lennon was his ability to track back and help out his defenders. His energy was as thrilling as it was inspirational. His efforts were rewarded by Spurs as he signed a new five and a half year deal in January 2007.
2008 to 2009 – League Cup Winner and Spurs Fan Favourite Status Confirmed
Tottenham fans are not the easiest to win over but if you give your all, excite the fans and get the adrenaline pumping, you have every chance of becoming a legend at White Hart Lane. 2008 to 2009 was arguably the period when Lennon was at his very best and at the heart of everything Spurs did well. Winning the 2008 League Cup Final would be the highlight of career as Spurs beat London rivals Chelsea 2-1 after extra time. Spurs fans rewarded him with the Fans’ Player of the Season award following the 2008/09 season and he was again nominated for the Young Player of the Year award. He finished runner up to Ashley Young but there is no doubt that Lennon was a player right at the top of his game during this period.
Lennon again featured in the 2009 League Cup Final but was not able to help his team re gain the cup as Manchester United edged Spurs on penalties after the match had ended goalless.
Lennon scored the fourth goal in one of the games of the season at the Emirates Stadium as Spurs came from behind to draw 4-4 against their North London neighbours. It was Harry Redknapp’s first game in charge and was a period that saw Spurs go from bottom of the table to ending in eighth place in the Premier League.
Everton and Mental Health Issues
By 2015, Lennon’s star was starting to fade at Spurs and he eventually joined Everton in 2015 for £4.5 million. He started well at Everton but the sacking of Roberto Martinez and the subsequent appointment of Ronald Koeman saw Lennon frozen out and it was the unhappiest of times for the former Spurs winger.
In April 2017, Lennon was detained under the 2007 Mental Health act and was said to be experiencing a stress related illness. The pressures of football on and off the pitch had taken their toll on the footballer but he showed incredible bravery in 2019 when at Burnley, by talking about his illness and being an advocate for mental wellbeing.
Mental Health, Support and Advocacy
By 2019, Aaron Lennon was playing for Burnley and spoke openly about his struggles with mental health. Lennon wanted to and continues to share his story to encourage people to speak out and get the support that is there when needed.
The then Burnley explained in a Premier League interview in May 2022;
“I was in a depressed state for a long period of time but it was that last real period when it literally took a big fall really quickly and by then I was in a really, really, dark, dark place. I didn’t want to speak to anyone, I didn’t want to get any help. I also didn’t realise that there was so much help around.”
Lennon emphasised the fact that it is okay to not be okay as he said;
“It is just so important for people knowing that there is a lot of help out there, and it’s alright to not feel okay, it’s alright to not to feel great every day.”
Lennon has joined with Burnley captain Ben Mee to join the School’s Mental Wellbeing Project to be an ambassador for young people’s mental health.
Aaron Lennon’s Career in Numbers
Lennon ended his career having played for Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Burnley, Kayserspor and again briefly back at Burnley. In his career spanning nearly 20 years, Lennon made 479 appearances and scored 37 goals. He was capped 21 times by England between 2006 and 2013.
Joy and Pain – Aaron Lennon’s Career – A Role Model on and Off the Field
Playing at an elite level in any sport is the pinnacle for any professional sports person and Aaron Lennon has been a role model to young players everywhere. His deviation to his profession was seen in every moment that he played on the pitch but is now seen in his commitment to mental health advocacy. He speaks about his own experiences to help others and by speaking out he is a role model for many others who will suffer with mental health in their lives and careers.
His playing career is now at an end but we will hear much more of this former Spurs man for years to come. His playing career is one to be remembered with happiness and his work off the field to be embraced now and in the future.
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