Football: Stags add more firepower by signing Briton Mehmet

Billy Mehmet on the attack for St Mirren in February 2010 against Hearts' Ian Black (left) and Ismael Bouzid, in their Scottish League Cup semi-final. He scored the only goal but his team lost in the final.
Billy Mehmet on the attack for St Mirren in February 2010 against Hearts' Ian Black (left) and Ismael Bouzid, in their Scottish League Cup semi-final. He scored the only goal but his team lost in the final.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

They have already landed Jermaine Pennant. But Tampines Rovers showed they were not satisfied with having just one classy striker in their line-up, when they plumped for former Sarawak forward Billy Mehmet.

The 31-year-old Briton enjoyed a fruitful season last year in the Malaysia Super League, finishing as the competition's joint-third highest scorer with 10 goals.

A product of English Premier League side West Ham's academy, he spent about seven years playing in the Scottish league, first for Dunfermline Athletic (2003-2005) and later for St Mirren (2005-2010).

With the addition of Mehmet, Pennant and last season's top local scorer Fazrul Nawaz (18 goals), Tampines coach V. Sundramoorthy is assured that his front line will not be short-handed at any point of the season. He said: "It's going to be a long season and we also have the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Cup to deal with.

"We don't just want one striker, but I want to make sure that we have enough firepower to last through the season."

The allure of playing alongside former LionsXII players and Pennant was enough for Mehmet to sign for the Stags last week.

He said: "I was impressed with the LionsXII players. They had the best goalkeeper (Izwan Mahbud) in the whole of Malaysia (league)."

"They were one of the best teams in the league, and many of them have signed for Tampines, so it's a good opportunity to come here and play with most of the Singapore national players."

According to the Briton, he had been in talks with a few clubs at the end of last year, including his former side St Mirren, now in the second tier of the Scottish league.

In fact, the Scottish Daily Record published an interview with Mehmet just two months ago in which he expressed a yearning to return to St Mirren.

But a phone call from Sundram - whom he met in 2014 when the Singaporean was coaching Negeri Sembilan - convinced him to come to Singapore instead.

"Sundram spoke highly of the team, so as soon as he called me, I switched and said, 'Yes, I want to go'," said Mehmet.

"The other teams weren't very happy with me. I have always said that I want go back there (St Mirren) to play one day, because they had been my platform to become the player I am today.

"But I think that it is just not the right time yet, I still want to play a few more years in Asia.

"It's a new challenge and the prospect of playing in the AFC Cup is attractive as I have never played in that competition before."

Sundram is hoping that his new signing's wealth of experience will help the club in their quest to lift a sixth S-League trophy. Besides Scotland, Mehmet's globetrotting career has taken him to Malaysia (Kedah and Sarawak), Australia (Perth Glory) and Turkey (Genclerbirligi).

Sundram said of his new 1.89m, 82kg striker: "He's a typical target man who can score goals. His physical presence will add strength to the team. He's hard-working and strong."

Fazrul added: "It's good to have so many quality players in the team. He's strong and he's going to be a handful for the defenders."

Alvin Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2016, with the headline 'Stags add more firepower by signing Briton Mehmet'. Print Edition | Subscribe