Dale Jennings comes to Bayern at a young age, but cannot assert himself. After that, he had to accept many setbacks.
Dale Jennings is a player in whose career his failure at Bayern Munich is paramount. But its story is much more complicated.
In 2011, FC Bayern signed the then 18-year-old Jennings for around two million euros from the English third division club Tranmere Rovers. After being sent away from Liverpool as a youngster, Jennings joined Tranmere at the age of 15, making the leap to the first team in September 2010.
During the 2010/11 season he made 29 appearances in League One, scoring six goals. The slight and fast Jennings was used on both flanks because of his two-footed ability.
FC Bayern: Dale Jennings the next Joe Cole
As is usual in the English media, he was soon being compared to the best talent in the country and in one instance even dubbed ‘the next Joe Cole’. Having won the League One Apprentice of the Year award in his first season with the Tranmere side, and also given Bayern interest, the hype seemed justified.
Tranmere manager Les Parry said on the club’s official website: “Bayern made us a very good offer for Dale and we don’t want to stop him from making this incredible step. When a club of the size of Bayern on comes your way, this is the chance of a lifetime.”
The deal went through and Jennings signed with Bayern the same summer as Manuel Neuer. While the future German number one switched to Munich’s first team, the young Englishman was assigned to the second team to gain experience.
But Jennings never really settled in Germany, injuries and homesickness prevented his further development. “I tried to learn the language for about six months, but I found it difficult,” Jennings said in 2018 BBC Sports. “I felt like it was affecting my game because I was too busy learning the German language instead of performing on the field. It was getting a bit too much for me,” continued Jennings.
The extent of Jennings’ injury woes, as he himself told the Leg It podcast earlier this year, was staggering even in the early stages of his career – so much so that he initially failed his medical at Bayern.
Dale Jennings struggles with injuries
“I had a hernia. After signing for Bayern, I was out of action for three months. After that, the other side had surgery. Then I tore the ligaments in my ankle. I didn’t pass the medical check, Bayern didn’t want to sign . My adviser did well though, he asked her: ‘You have the best medical professionals in the world and you’re abandoning him because of a hernia?’ They said, ‘We can take care of him, and they did,'” Jennings said.
When he finally played alongside Arjen Robben, Philipp Lahm and the other stars at Bayern, Jennings had to admit that at the time he thought he had made it.
“I remember putting on the Bayern shirt for the first time, walking out onto the training pitch, looking down and kind of laughing at myself. I was like, ‘How did that happen?’ I was immature then. I just thought, ‘This is going to go on forever,'” he told 2018 Daily Mail.
As the setbacks increased and the adjustment problems increased, Bayern decided to prevent the total loss of the investment: just 18 months after Jennings had signed a three-year contract, he was sold to Barnsley in June 2013 for 300,000 euros.
There he completed 50 games in two seasons before injuries again took their toll. He was sacked, played for a short stint at MK Dons and after his sacking spent more than two years without a club before moving on to amateur football.
At 29, Jennings now plays for Prescot Cables in his native North West England. Now it would be easy to write it off as a flop. But the story is not that simple, because there is more to Dale Jennings than that.
Dale Jennings’ daughter Mila is seriously ill
He took a two-year break from football when his daughter Mila was diagnosed with leukemia. A few years later she was diagnosed with another form of cancer.
at The Athletic he told this tragic story:
“It was then that football became irrelevant to me. We went through a terrible two years. Mila was battling leukemia and finally got the all-clear. Two months later she was diagnosed with Wilms’ tumor in her kidney. It had nothing to do with leukaemia – It was a very different kind of cancer. By the time she was six she had had cancer twice. She was treated with chemotherapy and radiation, the tumor was removed. It’s amazing what she went through as a young child. Me embarrassed that I felt bad myself when my knee broke.I’m often mentioned in stories or tweets about talent who didn’t make it to their big break or football prodigies that failed.It always gets to me a lot angry. But people don’t know that story. I’ve had a decent career – I know it could have gone better so far, but give it to me t there reasons.”
If you know this background, then it is completely irrelevant that Dale Jennings was not able to assert himself at FC Bayern Munich or in professional football at all.