Ex-Arsenal star Pennant for trials with Tampines
Tampines boss reveals why he's taking ex-Pool star Pennant, 32, on trial
If all goes well, S.League fans could soon be watching Jermaine Pennant zip down the flanks at stadiums in Jurong West, Yishun and Toa Payoh.
The former Arsenal and Liverpool winger, now a free agent, will fly into Singapore tomorrow for a week-long trial with five-time S.League champions Tampines Rovers.
Pennant, who turns 33 in 10 days' time, said he was excited about linking up with the Stags, whom he described as "one of the best" sides in the region.
"I am looking forward to meeting everyone from Tampines Rovers and seeing the beautiful country of Singapore for the first time," he said.
"The club have invited me over and I am looking forward to this really exciting challenge and prospect of playing for one of the best teams in South-east Asia."
After the news was first reported by Red Card Sports Radio yesterday, various international news outlets carried reports of the trial.
In England, news outlets like The Guardian, Daily Mail, TalkSport and ITV carried stories on their websites. Even French media outlet L'Equipe reported the news.
Pennant was tipped for great things after leaving Notts County and signing for Arsenal for £2 million ($4.2m) as a 15-year-old in 1999.
But he failed to find consistency in a topsy-turvy career that has also seen him play in Spain and India.
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He made the wrong headlines with arrests and jail time for drink-driving offences.
He also became the first footballer to play a Premier League match while wearing a police tag in 2005.
Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra, who recently succeeded Teo Hock Seng, explained that the club were made aware of Pennant's availability via R Sasikumar, the former Singapore international who is now managing director of sports marketing firm Red Card.
"He (Pennant) had a few options but decided to take a shot with Tampines, which is quite flattering to us as a club," said Krishna.
The New Paper understands the former England Under-21 star had two other offers of trials from Malaysian Super League sides, but chose to audition at Tampines instead.
He also went on a week-long trial with Thai side Muangthong United last year, but an offer was not forthcoming.
Said Krishna: "He is obviously a player with great pedigree, and what's important to me is he wants to prove he still possesses great skills.
"That's a huge factor for me. I'm not looking for a big-name player who is looking to drop a gear.
"He could potentially be someone who's very positive to the club, especially for our younger players.
"He has played in this region before, so he's familiar with what it takes. He's only 32 and, from what I understand, he's still very fit."
Tampines have been rebuilding their squad after falling short in last season's S.League, where they finished runners-up to Brunei DPMM, coached by former Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean.
The Stags have signed eight LionsXII players, including national No. 1 Izwan Mahbud, and midfielders Izzdin Shafiq and Hafiz Abu Sujad.
Fazrul Nawaz, whose 18 goals made him the best local striker last year, is also with the Stags.
The club also recently inked a Memorandum of Understanding with Brazilian star Ronaldinho to set up an academy here.
Krishna claimed Tampines have not held any preliminary discussions with Pennant or his representatives about his salary.
"What's unique is we haven't had any discussions about money," said 44-year-old lawyer.
"He wants to make sure he is right for the club, and so do we, before we discuss financial terms.
"Clearly, we can't simply break the bank to pay him whatever he wants."
The Stags begin their season on Jan 27, with an Asian Champions League play-off match against Indian side Mohun Bagan.
The club have invited me over and I am looking forward to this really exciting challenge and prospect of playing for one of the best teams in South-east Asia.
— Jermaine Pennant
- Name: Jermaine Pennant
- Date of birth: Jan 15, 1983
- Nationality: English
- Height: 1.73m
- Weight: 64kg
- U-21 caps (goals): 24 (0)
- Former teams: Arsenal, Watford, Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Real Zaragoza, Stoke, Wigan
- Major honours: Community Shield (2004, 2006), Champions League runners-up (2007), FA Cup runners-up (2011)
- 1999: Signs for Arsenal for £2 million ($4.2m) from Notts County as a 15-year-old and makes his debut aged 16 years and 319 days against Middlesbrough in the League Cup, making him Arsenal's youngest first-team player. The feat was later surpassed by Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere.
- 2002: Makes his Premier League debut as a substitute for Arsenal against West Ham on Aug 24.
- 2005: While on loan at Birmingham City, he gets arrested and convicted for drink-driving, driving while disqualified and driving without insurance. Handed a three-month prison sentence, but was released after serving 30 days. Later signs permanently for the Brummies.
- 2006: Signs for Liverpool from relegated Birmingham and showed good form initially but found himself overlooked by England coach Steve McCLaren.
- 2009: Joins Real Zaragoza after being released by Liverpool at the end of his contract. Struggles to adapt in Spain and joins Stoke City on loan a year later, which became a permanent move.
- 2014: Joins Pune City in the Indian Super League, before signing a short-term contract with Championship club Wigan. He scores three goals in 13 matches for the relegated Latics. Offered a new contract but chose not to accept.
They were linked to the S.League
The midfielder, who made 228 league appearances for Arsenal and earned 14 caps for England, was a target for Clementi Khalsa in 2000. The deal, though, broke down because of his "pressing property problems" in England. Tragically, "Rocky" died a year later in March, after losing his battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer.
In June 2011, the Newcastle United cult hero was reportedly a target of French outfit Etoile FC, when a picture of Robert holding the jersey with club chairman Johan Gouttefangeas was circulated online. But the move did not materialise, as Gouttefangeas stepped down under a cloud of controversy with reports of unpaid wages plaguing Etoile.
The Japan international midfielder, who played four Premier League games on loan at Tottenham in 2003, was signed as a "marquee" player by Warriors FC in 2013. Already 34 then, Toda failed to set the S.League alight and decided to retire when his contract expired at the end of the season.
Perhaps best known for his "ghost goal" for Spurs against Manchester United in 2005, when his shot from 55 metres crossed the line before being scooped out by Roy Carroll and was not awarded, Mendes was courted by Tampines Rovers before the start of the 2013 season. He was part of Jose Mourinho's Champions League-winning Porto side of 2004, and won 12 caps for Portugal. But, the move broke down because of wage demands. The Stags also eyed other marquee players like former Manchester City midfielder Geovanni, Eidur Gudjohnsen (Chelsea) and Egyptian striker Mido (Spurs). - SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ