Football: Jermaine Pennant to decide on deal with Tampines Rovers today

Tampines Rovers coach V. Sundramoorthy (left) says former EPL player Jermaine Pennant gets along easily with others in the team, is an attacking player who can create and score goals, and is someone whom others can look up to.
Tampines Rovers coach V. Sundramoorthy (left) says former EPL player Jermaine Pennant gets along easily with others in the team, is an attacking player who can create and score goals, and is someone whom others can look up to.ST FILE PHOTO

Ex-EPL star could be S-League's highest earner with six-month deal worth $40,000 monthly

By today, Tampines Rovers and former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant are likely to come to an agreement over a playing contract.

As the S-League holds its breath over the potential signing of its biggest-ever name, both the Stags and the former English Premier League footballer are hopeful that a deal can be struck.

The Straits Times understands that the contract will be for six months and is worth about $40,000 monthly. That will make the Englishman the league's highest-paid player in its 20-year history. The next-highest amount is believed to have been drawn by Japan's Kazuyuki Toda, who was paid $20,000 a month by the Warriors in 2013.

Pennant confidently appraised his chances of donning the yellow jersey at "75 per cent" after training with Tampines at Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday evening.

He said: "Within the next 24 to 48 hours, it will be announced. I'm sure you're going to find out before we go to Malaysia, by tomorrow morning or tomorrow night.

LIKELY BUT NOT 100% SURE

I'm not jumping the gun yet. But more likely and more chance of it is a 'yes'.

JERMAINE PENNANT, English footballer, on joining Tampines Rovers.

NOTHING CONCLUDED YET

Yes, we are in serious talks with the player but nothing has been concluded at this stage. I would know if terms are agreed.'

KRISHNA RAMACHANDRA, Tampines chairman, saying it's not a done deal.

"(I'm) not jumping the gun yet. But more likely and more chance of it is a 'yes'."

The Stags are slated to leave for Kuala Lumpur for a pre-season tour tomorrow, which coincidentally is Pennant's 33rd birthday.

The player's wife, Alice Goodwin, also teased her followers on Twitter when she posted yesterday: "Does anyone know approx how much it would cost to ship a car from one country to another?

"More importantly.......can I ship my dog from one country to another (sic)"

Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra added: "Yes, we are in serious talks with the player but nothing has been concluded at this stage. I would know if terms are agreed.

"Any deal has to make commercial sense for the club, preserve our financial sanctity but more importantly, benefit the S-League as a whole."

Since his arrival last Thursday for a week-long trial, Pennant, whose last-drawn salary was reportedly £25,000 (S$52,590) a week at former club Wigan, was keen to emphasise that he is willing to take a pay cut to resurrect his career.

There is no likelihood of Tampines splashing the cash, too, as S-League clubs seldom pay more than $10,000 monthly. The Straits Times understands that the club are discussing with motor distributor Komoco Motors about partially funding Pennant's salary.

Krishna said: "Remuneration is the biggest factor. It is a massive pay-cut for him."

Pennant said: "It's not just about the money. In the long run, I'll probably get rewarded in different ways if I do well at Tampines."

Having played in the EPL and started in the 2007 Champions League final for Liverpool against AC Milan, the S-League is a galaxy away from those glorious nights in Europe's biggest stadiums.

But Pennant is eager to taste life in Singapore, saying: "Sometimes when you play (at a) lower (level), it gets even harder because you are not surrounded by gifted players. I probably have to work a little harder. But that's why I've come here."

The winger's work-rate and positive attitude during training has already impressed Stags coach V. Sundramoorthy, who is certain that the player will bring the crowds back to the S-League. In its heyday, league matches would attract crowds of about 3,000.

Pennant played the second half of a friendly against Hougang United, creating a goal for defender Shakir Hamzah, last Saturday in front of 2,000 fans at Jalan Besar.

Sundram said: "He's likeable among fans and gets along easily with other players. He's an attacking player who can create and score goals. He encourages the players on the pitch, he turns up early for training. He's someone whom others can look up to.

"He has generated hype in the league. This boost is what's needed in the league and it has come after a very long time."

• Additional Reporting by Chua Siang Yee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2016, with the headline 'Pennant decision today'. Print Edition | Subscribe