Not many players have been signed for £2m at the age of 15, scored a hat-trick on their full Premier League debut and been released by a club during the summer only to sign a new one-year deal with the same club 12 days later. The story of Jermaine Pennant's career can be hard to follow. Disappointment, broken dreams and disciplinary problems are the main themes.
In 1999 Arsenal signed Pennant from Notts County for what was a record fee for a trainee. Quick and skilful, he was seen as a future England international, talented enough to challenge David Beckham's place on the right flank. However, Pennant had to wait four years before making his first start in the Premier League. When Arsène Wenger finally gave him a chance, Pennant scored a hat-trick inside 25 minutes in a 6-1 win against Southampton.
There never was a call from England, though, and after leaving Arsenal in 2005, Pennant flitted from club to club. Eventually Tony Pulis brought him to Stoke City three years ago but after excelling initially, he soon fell out of favour and spent part of last season on loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
When Mark Hughes replaced Pulis this summer, Pennant was shown the door but he was back 12 days later. Hughes felt he was too good to lose and his faith was rewarded by the winger's winner against West Ham. "Obviously with the old regime it was a bit iffy," Pennant said. "When the new manager came in windows and doors started opening."
It was Pennant who found the key to unlock West Ham's defence. Six minutes after coming off the bench, the 30-year-old bent a wonderful free-kick past Jussi Jaaskelainen to earn Stoke a 1-0 victory in which there were signs that Hughes is steering them away from Pulis's route-one tedium. Stoke created the better chances, passed well and dominated possession.
"He wants us to play football how he sees it," Pennant said. "He wants us to get the ball down and play. We want to enjoy our football because if you're enjoying your football you're going to get the best out of your players. And we've got some good players who can get the ball down and pass it."
Hughes, who has won two of his first three league matches, is pleased with the way his squad has embraced the change. "Maybe they were ready," he said. "You always make a judgment on the players you're working with and if I felt they weren't capable of playing the way I want them to, I wouldn't even have put it to them because if they haven't got the capabilities as football players – and men, really – to take it on board, then I would have been making more problems for myself."
For West Ham, this was confirmation that they need to sign a striker before the transfer window shuts on Monday night. They did not test Asmir Begovic once and a terrible miss from Modibo Maïga in the first half confirmed that he is not an adequate replacement for Andy Carroll, who should return from a heel injury at Southampton on 15 September. However, Sam Allardyce, who expects Ricardo Vaz Tê to leave, said that money will become available only if players are sold. The next 24 hours could define West Ham's season.
Man of the match Steven N'Zonzi (Stoke City)