Thursday, January 21, 2016


Ex Gooner Pennant To Tampines Rovers

Jermaine Pennant at Tampines Rovers? Ex Arsenal, ex Liverpool, once England’s most expensive teenager when Arsene Wenger signed him for 2 million quid while he was 15 years old, now aged 32, just what the hell is he doing in Singapore and is it a good deal for the Stags, now with a new chairman and desperate to regain the SLeague they have seen go elsewhere in the last two seasons.

Obviously Pennant is not at the end of the career and obviously his career has not panned out as perhaps many had anticipated way back when Wenger had signed him from Notts County for that hefty sum. A hat trick for the Arsenal ahead of an FA Cup Final appearance portended well for a bright future but it was not to be.

Now older and wiser and, perhaps significantly, spurned by English clubs since being released by Wigan Athletic has Pennant’s career really reached such an impasse Singapore is all that was left?

And could that be good news for the SLeague? Let’s be honest. The Football Association of Singapore have all but given up on the city state’s premier competition. For three years their attention was on LionsXII and the Malaysia adventure. Now that has been ended they have their eyes set upon the glory and prestige that is the ASEAN Super League and whatever that may entail. The SLeague is of little interest to them and you get the impression if just quietly exited stage left few tears would be shed at Jalan Besar.

Luckily the clubs seem to have different ideas and following a season where the major trophies were won by foreign teams and they have grasped the nettle with some ambitious moves in the transfer market. They could hardly do anything else what with the windfall of the best players in the country suddenly appearing on the market with the demise of LionsXII and the apparent lack of interest in many of the players going overseas.

Clubs have been busy strengthening with Tampines leading the way with a number of high profile recruits. But it is Pennant who raises the bar. Not because of any issues he may have faced over the years but because of the clubs he has played for over that career. Arsenal. Liverpool. A generation of Singaporeans have grown up knowing who he is and have seen him play in coffee shops across the island.

Jermaine Pennant is box office in a way no other signing in recent years has been and has the pedigree to raise a spark of interest in the local game among a populace in love with a football of names and personalities and not history and tradition. Pennant played for Liverpool...that alone is surely enough to rouse the public from their slumbers?

The signing for the winger is a massive statement from the Stags, a vote of confidence in the future of the SLeague that is neither shared by the FAS nor many in the country. Could it be a game changer? Could Pennant open the door to other ‘name’ players coming to Singapore to leave their footprint on a game that us seen as dying if not already receiving the last rites.

Handled correctly Pennant has the star dust quality that could raise the masses from their EPL induced myopia and focus some attention on what really matters...the local league. Pennant may think he has come to play football and as a footballer his signing is a spectacular coup for Tampines Rovers. But there is more. If his signing is matched by one or two other clubs who may have the vision to think out of the box who knows, perhaps we may, just may, see the buds of a local football revival.

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