Pennant wants to leave legacy at Tampines
Pennant insists he's a changed man and wants to leave behind legacy at Tampines
He stood in front of the camera, chest up, hands clasped behind his back, and lips spreading into an easy smile.
This was Jermaine Pennant, bad boy extraordinaire, the first man to play in an English Premier League match while wearing a police tag.
The very same bloke who "forgot he owned a Porsche" and leaving the car abandoned at a train station when he left Spain's Real Zaragoza to sign for Stoke.
Here he was at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday, in a Tampines Rovers kit, no less.
Not larger than life, not demanding attention, Pennant instead held a pose more suited for a military parade square than for cameras that cannot seem to get enough of him.
There was little in his mannerism during interviews or conduct on the pitch that hinted at the trouble-maker that Pennant has been labelled as - he even pronounced "Tampines" correctly - except for perhaps the several tattoos he wore proudly on his skin.
Tattoos often tell a story of its bearer's life, and the 32-year-old's latest ink hints at his current state of mind.
"This is the latest one I got, it's my wife," said the former Liverpool and Arsenal winger, pointing at a tattoo of a dark-haired woman on his right calf.
On the back of the hand he used to point were inked the words: "Family is everything."
Pennant married model Alice Goodwin in 2014, and he insisted that she anchors him.
"I've been married about two years, and your wife always keeps you in check - that's a known fact - especially my wife," he told The New Paper after the first day of his trial.
"Things that used to matter when you were young - partying and all that - now don't really exist, they're only for special occasions, like birthdays and weddings.
"But I'm happy, it's better for my body and, to be honest, I prefer it that way."
Signed for £2 million ($4.2m) by Arsenal when he was just 15, Pennant's career was plagued by drink-driving issues, breaking curfews, and even falling out of favour for frequently turning up late for training sessions at Real Zaragoza.
Once England's most expensive teenager, Pennant never quite realised his potential in a career that saw him go from the big-time bright lights of a Champions League final with Liverpool - not that historic one in Istanbul, but two years later in 2007 where they fell 2-1 to AC Milan - to India's Pune City, and now perhaps to the S.League.
"I have some regrets, but I've had a good career as well. Probably when I was young, I wasn't mature enough, but you got to learn from your mistakes," he said of his teenage years spent in the spotlight.
"That's the thing, when you're in the public eye, one mistake could cost you your career, but I didn't know that, I wasn't taught that - I just wasn't aware.
"I just wanted to be a normal teenager, I didn't want the attention from the outside world, and the money (played a part) as well."
The Pennant in Singapore seemed a different person. Coming to a training session early, after a 14-hour flight just eight hours prior, he fielded one question after another, in easy conversation - even the tricky ones.
"(The S.League is) not a step down, but a new challenge. It's a new chapter, a new era, no better place to start than in Singapore.
"I didn't come here for an easy ride, I want to stamp my authority, leave a legacy and be a star in this team," he said of Tampines, a team he called the "Manchester United of Singapore".
At his first session with the five-time S.League champions, Pennant looked understandably lethargic, and seemed to struggle with Jalan Besar's artificial surface, but he promised better.
"Obviously, I'm tired after travelling for 14 hours, but it was good. There are good lads here, and they've made me feel welcome. Now I've got to start learning their names," he said, chuckling.
"If I can help boost the league and get the crowds back, it will be an achievement."
The signs were good.
A media horde gathered at Jalan Besar, along with fans looking to get photographs and autographs of the Englishman, who declared he would love to play for Tampines, and not just for one season.
"They're one of the biggest teams in Singapore, so I thought it'll be a great opportunity to take my career to another level, to try something new," he said stroking that tattoo on the back of his left hand.
"I've learnt from my mistakes... I will play for as long as my legs will let me, but I still feel like I'm 21."