Brits Abroad: The Grass Ain't Always Greener on the Other Side

Bradley KingCorrespondent IJuly 15, 2009

WIGAN, ENGLAND - MAY 24:  Jermaine Pennant of Portsmouth runs with the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Portsmouth at the JJB Stadium on May 24, 2009 in Wigan, England.  (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

The British have never travelled well. In between losing their luggage and dictating loudly to European locals, the quintessential Brit arguably moans as much on holiday as at any other time, failing to the embrace the culture of the country in which they find themselves.

So it may not be too much of a surprise that while the stars of other major European nations flock abroad to strut their stuff in pastures new, British footballers have suffered an apparent fear of travelling. Just a handful of them have headed to pastures new.

As former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant becomes the latest to try his hand at football on the mainland, here is a look at players who have left and how successful their stays were.

Stan Collymore

After a dismal spell at Bradford, the ex-Liverpool striker—who was so prolific at Anfield—decided to try his chances at mediocre Spanish side Real Oviedo. Greeted by 1,500 fans at his unveiling, Collymore's arrival represented a new chapter for Ovideo fans—or so they thought.

While former teammate Steve McManaman was performing well at Real Madrid, Collymore struggled with his fitness. Two months and three appearances after signing with the club, Collymore announced his immediate retirement to "explore other career opportunities which were available to him." Dogging perhaps?


Michael Owen

Another former Kop idol, Owen signed for Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2004 for £8million plus Antonio Nunez. But while Owen was top scorer on a regular basis for Liverpool in the Premier League, he struggled to nail down a starting place at the Bernabeu. Owen became a benchwarmer.

But goalscorers can't be kept down for long. Owen soon found his form, despite most of his appearances coming from the substitutes' bench. He moved on to Newcastle after just one season but not without scoring 18 goals in 41 games, just 15 of which were starts.


Garry O'Connor

As far as unlikely transfers go, this one must be pretty high up the list. After a successful few seasons at Hibernian, O'Connor was courted by Russian giants Lokomotiv Moscow, who offered him what manager Tony Mowbray called a "life-changing" salary.

O'Connor leaped at the opportunity to pick up around £16,000 per week, but like many foreigners who head to Russia, his family failed to settle in their new surroundings. O'Connor's on-pitch performances were affected by this, despite the seven league goals he scored in 33 appearances. He eventually returned to Britain with Birmingham City.


So it may not be all sun, sea, sand and fun for Pennant in Spain. He needs to adjust to a new style of play, a new environment, and expectation levels that will be set high by default as they are for all Brits that head abroad.

Only time will tell if he will be a Beckham or a Collymore.