The permanent summer recruit from Everton has been a regular in Shrewsbury Town’s backline this season and is a reliable performer for boss Steve Cotterill.
With fitness doubts around his defensive colleagues Ethan Ebanks-Landell and Aaron Pierre, Pennington, 27, will again be one of the first names on Town’s teamsheet for tomorrow’s home clash against Charlton Athletic.
Pennington, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Town under Cotterill, has made no secret of the importance of his permanent summer switch to Shropshire, a first full-time move away from the Toffees, with whom he spent his formative years.
A series of seven loans away from Goodison Park meant the centre-half’s destination was often up in the air each summer. This time around, however, after securing his Shrews move early on, he was ready to hit the ground running.
Pennington, who recently missed two cup games for Town having tested positive for Covid-19, said: “I’ve had stints before where I’ve played a lot of games but I’ve never had it where I started on day one of the season and played all the way through really.
“It’s strange with my age, but’s just the way the system’s worked in terms of loans and where I’ve been at the time.
“One hundred per cent it has helped. Getting through a tough pre-season is key in sustaining a positive, fully-fit season.
“I’m always looking to improve, the fact I’m playing games consistently allows me to look at different areas to improve and build on.
“If you’re not starting games your main focus is to get into the team, you can’t think too far ahead.
“But if I’m playing consistently, I can start to look at what I can add to my game and improve and add value to the team and club.” The stopper, who has received praise from Cotterill and supporters this time, added: “The manager’s a really good coach, he gives us ideas and it allows us the freedom to play the game, know where things and people will be, to be more confident with playing. That can only improve us.”
Charlton arrive in Shropshire 14th in League One but one of the division’s in-form teams. They are yet to lose in seven league and FA Cup games under interim boss Johnnie Jackson, 39, – the former midfielder who Cotterill worked with on his way to the League Two title with Notts County more than 10 years ago.
Striker Jayden Stockley serves the final game of a suspension and misses the trip.
The Addicks, however, will be aware of Town’s decent record in front of their own fans, where their four league wins this term have arrived.
“It’s hard to put your finger on really,” Pennington added when asked about contrasting home and away form: “Maybe at the moment we need to do more to win an away game, I know sometimes you need to do more away to win a game anyway.”
“But now maybe we need that extra bit more to get us over the line, build that confidence, and then the next game we’ll need a bit less to win, if you know what I mean. We need to address it.”
Pennington recently endured a rare spell out of the Salop side – though fortunately he was not sidelined for any league games – after coming down with the virus.
The defender has played in all but one of Town’s 18 league matches so far this term, Luke Leahy is the only outfield player to have started more games.
But Pennington tested positive following goalkeeper Marko Marosi – who has featured in every league game – in doing so. The defender admits the period of ill health hit him more than he had expected.
“I had Covid, so to come through a couple of games playing 10 men (against Cheltenham and Sunderland) feeling physically good, I was happy with,” he added.
“I was surprised, it probably knocked me more than I thought. I tried to run after the 10 days and felt chesty. I thought after 10 days I’d be fine with no lasting symptoms.
“I had a few days after still chesty, building up to Cheltenham thinking ‘will I be alright?’ and thankfully I turned a bit of a corner and since then have felt good.
“We now more than anyone at this club what Covid can do to people, we had to be careful and thankfully everything was fine.”