Aaron Lennon: Rolling back the years with an inspirational performance in more ways than one
Lennon has finished in the top twelve for Premier League assists on three occasions (photo: Wikimedia)

Aaron Lennon: Rolling back the years with an inspirational performance in more ways than one

The winger played a part in three of Burnley's four goals against Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon.

chris-lincoln
Chris Lincoln

30th April 2017 - a moment that nobody should ever have to experience...

Former England international Aaron Lennon was reported to be "receiving care and treatment for a stress-related illness" by his club at the time, Everton - the winger had been detained under the Mental Health Act after reports after concerns for his welfare.

Yet a mere 17-months on and the 31-year old rekindled the magic that saw him earn 21 international appearances to lift Burnley off the foot of the table.

Once as good as Giggs?

In 2003, Lennon became the youngest player to grace the Premier League at that time, making his Leeds United debut at the tender age of 16. But it didn't take him long to establish himself as one of the most creative forces in the country when he signed for Tottenham Hotspur.

During the 2006-07 campaign, he created seven goals, the same as Ryan Giggs, finishing in the top ten for Premier League assists. Three seasons later, he tied with Giggs again, this time making nine goals in just 22 appearances, as he entered the top five for assists and joining the Welshman as the most creative winger in the league that season. And in 2012-13 he made seven goals to reach the top 12, alongside the likes of Damien Duff and Samir Nasri.

Spritely with a low centre of gravity and tough to disposses, Lennon enjoyed a decade at the peak of his game. Between 2003 and 2013 he made 41 goals in 241 games at an average of one assist in less than six games.

Yet his career started to slow down, eventually leaving Spurs for Everton and then Burnley. Over the past five seasons, he has created just eight goals in 115 games - around one every 14 matches. In 2015-16, he failed to make one goal in 25 Premier League appearances.

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Performance of the weekend?

However, the determination of Lennon cannot be questioned, emphasied by his return to the heights of his Premier League after experiencing such a challenging point in his personal life. And it was like watching the Lennon of old on Saturday afternoon against Bournemouth...

The winger had not scored or created a goal this season going into the contest but he was determined to be an influential figure, showing for the ball and picking up dangerous positions. Lennon had played an average of less than 20 passes per game but made 28 against Bournemouth, two of which were key passes after playing just one creative ball in the previous five fixtures.

Unbelievably, Lennon had not made one cross during those contests - despite Burnley's best goalscoring threat coming from aerial positions.. Playing against the Cherries, the two crosses he composed tore the Bournemouth defence apart to create goals at crucial points in the contest - it was like rewinding a decade.

And Lennon's renewed confidence was in evidence in front of goal as he picked up telling positions to score his first goal since 2016. The dimunitive figure had only taken one shot in his last five league games.

An inspiration to us all

The 4-0 drubbing was not only Burnley's record Premier League win but also lifted them out of the relegation zone. Combined with the creative ability of Johann Berg Gudmundsson on the other wing, such form from Lennon should help propel the Clarets into the top half of the table.

Yet this performance also shows how a life and career can be turned around - Lennon got the support he needed at the most critical point in his life and emphasises why mental health needs to be rejected as taboo, particularly with it being so prevalent in every walk of life.

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