Lennon's ticket to ride

While the world talks about Walcott, Eriksson's other teenage dynamo, Aaron Lennon, is getting ready to shine, writes Peter Marshall.

In a week where Theo Walcott has stolen all the headlines you could be forgiven for thinking that England's World Cup squad was all about one talented teenage star. But while a nation debates the rights or wrongs of Sven-Goran Eriksson's gamble, fellow young gun Aaron Lennon doesn't mind being left out of the conversation at all. He's happy enough to let his football continue to do the talking.

Like Walcott, 19-year-old Tottenham winger Lennon has been called up for the first time to make his senior international bow in Germany as reward for a remarkable year. He arrived at White Hart Lane last July and was not expected to make an impression on the first team but an injury to Wayne Routledge offered an opportunity the youngster seized. With searing pace and a fearless attitude, Lennon was impressive as Spurs challenged for a fourth-placed finish in the Barclays English Premier League, scoring twice in the process, although they were pipped on the final day of the season by Arsenal.

His two goals, against Birmingham and Bolton, have illustrated his quality, showing his ability to get into the penalty area and also a cool head under pressure when defenders are closing in. It is those skills that have convinced Eriksson he can be a major asset this summer as he continues to stake his claim as a rapidly rising star.

For Lennon, the chance to showcase his skills on the biggest stage of all is also justification for making one of the hardest decisions of his life when he was forced to turn his back on his beloved Leeds United a year ago. The winger, who was brought up in the Chapeltown area of Leeds, signed for his hometown club and made his debut in August 2003 — ironically against Tottenham — making him at the time the youngest player to play in a Premier League game. Following Leeds' relegation from the top flight Lennon spent a year in the Coca-Cola Championship, where he was earmarked as a potential target for top-flight clubs.

With Leeds' financial plight meaning they had to sell players, it was then that Lennon moved to Spurs, despite being one of the young band of up-and-coming stars tipped to get the west Yorkshire club back into the Premier League.

Furious Leeds supporters planned to protest against chairman Ken Bates after the sale, which was reported to be completed for around GBP 1million. Lennon still holds a strong affinity for Leeds and there were suggestions he was homesick during his debut season at White Hart Lane, although boss Martin Jol and the player himself denied it. But since making the switch to London it is clear that on the pitch he has thrived — developing from a player with raw talent into one of the most exciting wide players England have had in years. He admits his spectacular rise to prominence has come as something of a shock.

Spurs boss Jol, however, is in no doubt as to what he has brought to the side. "Even when things are not going well, Aaron is a player who can make a difference. He has got that special habit — who else can do that?" said the Dutchman.

"He can also play on the left and in the future he can play in the hole. If he picks up a ball, the defender must get the ball or he is in difficulty — that is a great asset for a club."

In Germany this summer it could be a huge asset for his country too. While the world talks about Walcott, Eriksson's 'other' teenage dynamo is getting ready to shine.

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