England and Tottenham Hotspur star Jermaine Jenas has enjoyed plenty of highs during a stellar career on the pitch, but the midfielder still knows that “there are more important things in life than football”.
Namely, the exciting news that he and his model wife Ellie are expecting their first baby together. “It’s been quite emotional,” admits the 29-year- old footballer, as the couple settle down to chat exclusively to hello!. “We both wanted this so much.”
The couple, who married in style at luxury country manor hotel Cliveden House in Berkshire last year, discovered Ellie was pregnant at six weeks. With both their mums in the house, an excited Ellie “came running down the stairs with the pregnancy stick”.
Jermaine has a daughter, Sancha, four, from an earlier relationship and
he and Ellie have just found out that they are expecting another girl. “We can’t wait to meet her,” says Ellie, who adds, laughing: “Jermaine says he’s going to have problems being surrounded by women.”
Devoted dad Jermaine says that fatherhood has helped teach him to “keep life in perspective”.
“I used to come home and be moody if I lost a game,” he says. “My mum couldn’t talk to me. I put so much pressure on myself to make it as a professional footballer.
“But then I had my little one and shejusthadtolookatmeandIwas like, ‘I can’t be mad with you.’ Now I cherish my family time.”
Model Ellie looks on proudly. “He is such an amazing dad,” she says.
Articulate and friendly, Jermaine is a world away from the stereotypical footballer, though he and Ellie do
enjoy the trappings that come from his well-paid job. “But I’m never too big in my mum or dad’s eyes to be told to bring it in a bit,” he admits.
MORE TO LIFE
Like many of his fellow footballers, he was left reeling recently after Bolton Wanderers’ Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch after a heart attack and Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with leukaemia.
“There’s been an eerie feeling about the game,” says Jermaine, who has spoken to former teammate Stiliyan since his shock diagnosis.
“Footballers can get slaughtered by people a lot of the time. But I feel like the fans and players have come together and it really feels like football has united all of a sudden. As much as it can be in this situation, football has been a positive thing.”
Jermaine was driven to succeed from an early age. He played in Nottingham Forest’s first team at 17, before joining Newcastle United a year later. And the Premiership star – who has 21 England caps – wants his children to share the same attitude.
“I feel like I’ve got very good morals instilled in me from my mum and dad,” says the footballer, who joined Spurs in 2005 and went to Aston Villa on loan earlier this season. “I was taught to always respect my elders,” he says. “And that ‘please’ and ‘thank- you’ should be a minimum.”
Ellie, who is due to give birth in September, agrees. “I want my children to be down to earth,” she says. “I would hate it if they were showing off about what they have. We’ve already decided that we are sending them to state schools.”
The 23-year-old, who includes her husband in most of her sentences, says they share most of their outlook on life. “We’re best friends, aren’t we?” she says. “Everyone says that we are always together.”
The couple met in London’s Movida nightclub four years ago. “We literally fell in love on the spot,” says Jermaine, who has a tattoo of Ellie on his left arm, based on a photograph taken the night they met – alongside one of a clock depicting the time and date of his daughter’s birth. “I was attracted to her straight away.”
But he still had to work hard to win Ellie’s affections. “I wouldn’t leave her alone,” he says. “She eventually gave me her number, but even when I was texting her, she didn’t want to know. I think we had a few arguments before we went on a date!”
Ellie laughs and says: “I shouldn’t say it, but I used to say that you used to annoy me.”
“That’s all right,” replies Jermaine. “I was persistent.”
And his persistence paid off. Ellie says they “just clicked” on their first date. The model wasn’t put off by the fact that Jermaine already had a child. “I was quite surprised,” says Jermaine. “It was a massive test.
“She came into Sancha’s life when she was nine months old, and it was amazing to see Ellie in that environment, that she could take care of my child with me. She just took to it like a duck to water.
“That’s why I know for a fact that she’s going to be a great mum. If Sancha ever wants anyone in the night the majority of the time she will call for Ellie. They’ve got a great relationship.”
Ellie who describes herself as “quite mumsy”, regards Sancha “like one of my own” and says she loves watching Jermaine with his little girl. “As soon as Sancha sees him, her face lights up,” she says. “She loves him so much. I’ve always said there is something very attractive about seeing a man with his child.”
Sancha is also excited about having a new sibling. “She asked us for a sister,” says Ellie.
Jermaine is a hands-on dad. “I’m not squeamish about nappies or anything,” says the Nottingham- born midfielder, who hopes to have three or four children with Ellie.
Ellie and Jermaine rented out their London home and moved to Birmingham after he was loaned to Aston Villa. When he suffered an Achilles tendon injury last December, they returned to the capital but can’t move back into their own home until the tenancy agreement ends in the summer. So the couple are living with Ellie’s parents.
“It seemed pointless to rent somewhere else,” says Jermaine, who reveals that both their families are close and they expect plenty of support when the little one arrives.
“Honestly, I’ve been blessed,” says the soccer star. “I always say that my in-laws are great. After my Achilles operation I was in a cast and wasn’t allowed to move for two weeks, and I got waited on by Ellie’s mum.” Ellie, meanwhile, speaks to Jermaine’s mum most days.
The mum-to-be has also been invaluable in helping Jermaine recover from the injury that has kept him out of the game for six months. “Honestly, I would have struggled without her,” he says. “She’s been a massive help to me psychologically, saying, ‘I can’t wait to see you playing again.’
“But I’m happy now, and raring to go. I’m about two weeks away from full training and I can’t wait. I’ve signed a new contract, which will keep me at Tottenham until 2014. I’m only 29, so there is plenty of football left in me.”
Jermaine says he could watch his sport “24/7” and his wife will happily sit down to watch matches despite having minimal interest in the game before they met.
Ellie also gets very protective of Jermaine when she’s watching in a stadium. “Fans like to give their opinion, but sometimes forget that someone’s wife or mother is sitting there,” she says.
“Sometimes I look up from the pitch and I see her face and she’s really angry,” laughs Jermaine.
“I do understand fans’ frustrations and thoughts that they can shout whatever they want because footballers earn so much,” he adds. “It’s hard for people to relate to the gap in money.”
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE
Jermaine is keen to invest his money wisely. “I’ve got a company with one of my best friends supplying teachers to schools in Nottingham. A lot of people are shocked when I tell them,” he says. “We’ve got a foundation that runs alongside, Aquinas Education, which is named after Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of education.
“Nottingham is going through a bad time,” adds the local hero, who goes into schools in the city to give talks. “I think it has the second highest truancy rate in the UK. Kids are leaving school and going on the streets, so it’s getting a bit messy. We’re helping with literacy and things like getting new windows for schools or supplying football kits.”
Jermaine did well at school and left at 16 with ten GCSEs. “My mum always said, ‘You’ve got to have something to fall back on.’ She wanted me to be a physio if the football didn’t work out.”
The Premiership star has stayed loyal to his roots – his two best men were friends from home. “In football, you have more acquaintances,” he says. “You meet them at a club, and then if you move on and remain in touch, then I would class them as friends. Often you move and don’t hear from people, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get on.”
He is closest to fellow internationals Alan Hutton, Jonathan Woodgate and Kieron Dyer. After Ellie and Jermaine’s wedding, they joined fellow newlyweds Alan and his wife Kylie for a week in Las Vegas before their own holiday.
“When we were in Las Vegas I bought a couple of babygrows because they were so cute,” says Ellie. “I’ve just realised that they were girls’ ones.”
Jermaine believes that support from friends and loved ones helps make him a better player. “If you’re not happy off the pitch, it projects itself onto the pitch,” he says.
But with the baby due when the football season is in full swing, would he miss the birth if there were an important game? “Never,” says Jermaine. “I will drop everything to be there.”