Singapore Football

A day in the life of S.League star Jermaine Pennant

Former Arsenal and Liverpool winger JERMAINE PENNANT, arguably the biggest name to grace the S.League in its 21-year history, invites TNP's SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ into his home for an insight into 
his daily routine in Singapore

It is just after 2pm on Wednesday, and Jermaine Pennant answers the door.

The S.League's biggest star looks a little groggy.

The night before, the former Arsenal and Liverpool winger played a starring role in Tampines Rovers' 4-0 win over Bangladesh side Sheik Jamal Dhanmondi in an AFC Cup clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

With adrenalin still coursing through his body, he later stayed up to watch the Gunners - and former teammate Mathieu Flamini - take on Barcelona in their Champions League Round-of-16 tie against Barcelona.

Pennant went to bed at nearly 7am in the morning.

Only seven years ago, he was one of Liverpool's best performers in an agonising 2-1 defeat by Italian giants AC Milan in the 2007 final.

With a wistful smile, he told The New Paper: "Yeah, while I was watching the game, I did think, 'I've been there, I've done that, I've played in the final'.

"What you lot are trying to get to now, I've already done it.'

"But, I just see it as an achievement. Of course, you want to play in the best teams and best tournaments.

"I've got the Asian (continental competition) now with the AFC Cup, so I hope Tampines can go as far as possible in that."

Pennant has looked at ease in the Lion City since he arrived here on Jan 7.

His condominium unit in the east measures 90-plus sq feet while his house in Liverpool - one of five properties he owns in England -is about 700 times bigger, but Pennant is not complaining.

Sprawled on a red sofa in his living room, the former England Under-21 star said: "Yeah, I'm comfortable here.

"It's got what I need. A nice bed, a nice kitchen.

"My family came here last week and they loved it."

Pennant had no qualms about having TNP come over to see what he gets up to during his downtime, and gave an insight into his life off the pitch.

11AM

He wakes up and, after a shower, prepares some breakfast, usually cereal. Then he does the dishes, if any, from the night before.

He sports a sheepish smile as he puts on a pair of green rubber gloves before working on the dirty pots and pans in the sink (right).

"In England, we have a dishwasher," he mutters under his breath. Otherwise, he will just kick back and turn on the television.

NOON

An XBox controller lying on his coffee table suggests Pennant is a console gamer. He does not play the wildly-popular football Fifa game, though.

He said: "I watch football, I play it, I don't want to come home and play it as well... It'll take up my life. I used to play it a lot, but I kind of just drifted away from it. Now, it's just Call of Duty or World of Tanks."

Pennant is a movie and TV series junkie as well.

"I like action thrillers," he said. "Horror movies don't do it for me. They're all the same. Someone gets possessed and they're out to hurt you.

"As for TV series, there are loads I enjoy. I'm watching The Blacklist, Homeland, Game of Thrones... The Walking Dead is up there as well."

Pennant played golf frequently in England, but he's found it difficult to find the time to do it here.

While all his entertainment seems to be indoors, he insists he isn't bored.

"I might feel that down the line if I knew that (fellow Tampines imports) Jordan (Webb) and Billy 
(Mehmet) weren't just across 
from me in the other block.

"They're cool guys and funny to hang around with, and they're in the same boat as me, on their own most of the time.

"So if we are bored, then we can do something together and entertain ourselves. Go to the cinema or grab something to eat.

"That (off-pitch relationship between teammates) is very good to have and that's why our connection on the pitch is good as well."

3PM

Later in the afternoon, it's time for some fresh air. Usually, Pennant meets up with Webb and Mehmet for a walk to a nearby cafe.

"If I'm having breakfast at 11am, I'm not going to get hungry until about say 3pm or 4pm, which is just before training (usually around 5pm)," explained Pennant. "I don't like having a big meal before getting on the pitch.

"In the afternoon, the boys and I have a little coffee down the road, and maybe I'll have a croissant or a sandwich. So I won't be running around on absolute empty during training."

When TNP visited, heavy rain forced Pennant indoors. When it's time for training, Pennant drove his silver Hyundai Veloster, provided by Komoco Motors, Hyundai's distributors and a long-time Stags' sponsor.

GETTING READY: Pennant packing his gear for training.

6PM

After getting into his kit and lacing on his boots, Pennant's on the pitch.

But he'll take things slow as part of the group of players doing recovery, following the previous night's hard-fought win.

When fitness coach Thomas Pang informs the group they'll play some sepak takraw, Pennant exclaimed: "What?"

But he soon gets into the groove.

CLOSE PAL: Pennant and Webb taking it easy after finishing training.

7PM

After training, Pennant goes on the hunt for some grub, usually with pals Webb and Mehmet.

"After the (AFC Cup) match, for example, not many places are still open so we went to Spize (a 24-hour eatery) along River Valley Road," explained the former Premier League player.

"If not, on a regular day after training, it could be anywhere.

"Sometimes, we go to Orchard Road, or I could just cook at home, which is what I did the two nights before the match.

"Or sometimes we get a little Nando's (grilled chicken) takeout."

Sleep is usually around midnight, although it tends to be later on nights the Stags are in action.

"After games, I find it hard to switch off, especially if I've had a Red Bull before the match," he said.

"If it's a regular day, I try to go to bed around midnight, and go to sleep around 1am.

"Because we never really train in the morning, I usually manage to get a good nine hours or so of sleep."

Pennant prepared to take the knocks.

TAMPINES ROVERS v HOUGANG UNITED

(Tonight, 7.30pm, Jurong West Stadium)

He has a big target on his back as the most high-profile name to grace the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League.

But Jermaine Pennant insists he can deal with the rough and tumble of being a marked man whenever he runs out onto the pitch in a Tampines Rovers jersey.

In his debut in the 3-3 draw with Geylang International two weeks ago, the former Arsenal and Liverpool winger was on the receiving end of some hard tackles after coming on as a substitute.

And in his second appearance for the club - the 4-0 thumping of Bangladesh side Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi on Tuesday - he was hacked down with an ugly tackle by Bangladeshi international Yeasin Khan just 11 minutes into the match.

Another tough night awaits Pennant when Tampines host Hougang United in their S.League clash at the Jurong West Stadium tonight.

The Cheetahs scored a shock 1-0 win over title hopefuls Home United last week, with coach K Balagumaran successfully stifling the Protectors' creative players by deploying the hard-tackling midfield duo of M Anumanthan and Raihan Rahman.

Bala wants his charges to produce the same feisty display against the Stags, but Pennant isn't worried.

"If they come in with the same tactics, then it's obviously the referee's job to contain it," said the former England U-21 star yesterday.

"I'm not saying that every little touch is a foul. This is football, so of course there'll be some mistimed challenges and I expect that.

"I played in England, and you can't get any more physical than that. Especially in the Championship as well.

"So, (hard challenges here) are probably nothing compared to what I got back home.

"But if it's needless or out of character or stupid, that's when the referee has to come in and contain it.

"If the (offenders) get a warning or a booking, they'll stop doing it because they know they can't risk getting sent off and ruining the game for their team."

Pennant said the physicality in English football ensured there is no let-up even in training sessions.

When asked who was the most aggressive player he has ever gone up against, he said: "(Current Leicester City defender) Robert Huth (left)in training (while both were at Stoke City), I reckon.

"If he was running out to that touchline, you know he'd be nibbling at your ankles.

"He was a menace."

Pennant is looking forward to more game time tonight.

He hopes he can play a major role in helping his team secure their first league win of the season.

Pennant says the AFC Cup win has done a great deal for confidence.

"It was very, very important, not just for me, but also for the team, to have a good solid performance and a good win," he said.

"There's been a lot of hype not just around me but the club, about the coach (V Sundramoorthy) signing half the national team, about how we're title favourites and we should win everything.

"If football was that simple, Man City would be winning everything in England. So yeah, the 4-0 win was important, and not only to keep the press at bay, but for the confidence of the whole team. We just want to keep going."

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