Pennant could start on the bench
In possible shock move, Tampines' Akbar could go with Shahdan in his first 11
ALBIREX NIIGATA v TAMPINES ROVERS
(Tonight, 7.30pm, StarHub TV Ch 112/205 & 76.25MHz)
He has started in an FA Cup final and the Champions League final.
But ex-Liverpool and Arsenal man Jermaine Pennant could begin his first - and likely, only - RHB Singapore Cup final, on the bench.
The 33-year-old cut a somewhat gloomy figure in Tampines Rovers' final training session at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday morning before their big match against Albirex Niigata at the same venue tonight.
Pennant was the first off the ground, and had his head down as he made a beeline for the dressing room.
When The New Paper approached the midfield star, he mumbled that he did not want to talk.
TNP understands Pennant could lose his place in the starting line-up to Singapore international Shahdan Sulaiman, who has been in good form since returning to action earlier this month after 10 weeks out with a fractured ankle.
On Thursday, Pennant confirmed he would leave the Stags once his contract, reportedly worth $20,000 a month, is up at the end of the season.
That means tonight's final will be his last outing in a Tampines shirt.
Stags coach Akbar Nawas played his cards close to his chest regarding team selection.
Said the 41-year-old: "It's good to have this selection headache.
"Jermaine may or may not start, I have not decided yet."
Pennant's arrival in the S.League in February created a buzz not seen for many years.
He made a bright start, attracting over 2,000 fans to the Jalan Besar Stadium in a pre-season friendly, and scored or picked up several assists in his first few games.
He suffered an ankle injury in mid-season which sidelined him for a few matches and, when fit again, he spent more time in a central attacking midfield role after Shahdan fractured his leg in July.
The former England Under-21 star has been hit and miss in the middle.
Shahdan, however, stood out in the Stags' last game - a 5-1 win over Albirex in a dead rubber S.League match on Wednesday.
This performance could be what is prompting Akbar to contemplate starting the 28-year-old ahead of Pennant.
Said Akbar: "So far, the players who have been playing have done well.
"Whatever the case, all our boys are hyped up for the final.
"I'm sure, regardless of whether they start the game or come off from the bench, they will do a job if called upon, and that includes Jermaine."
Among the highs in Pennant's career was his performance for Liverpool when the Reds reached the 2007 Champions League final in Athens.
Rafael Benitez's men lost 2-1 to AC Milan, but Pennant put in a Man-of-the-Match performance, and created Liverpool's only goal in the game.
Four years later, the Nottingham-born player started another high-profile match when he lined up for Stoke City against Manchester City in the FA Cup final.
He again ended up on the losing side, after the Potters were downed by a Yaya Toure goal.
In both finals, he played the full 90 minutes.
He might not start tonight, but he will surely be hoping to end up on the winning side in a Cup final, for once.