Pennant can spur S-League interest: Fowler & McAteer

Robbie Fowler (in black) and Jason McAteer at New Balance and Courts events yesterday.
Robbie Fowler (in black) and Jason McAteer at New Balance and Courts events yesterday.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM AND PHOTO: NEW BALANCESINGAPORE
Robbie Fowler (in black) and Jason McAteer at New Balance and Courts events yesterday.
Robbie Fowler (in black) and Jason McAteer at New Balance and Courts events yesterday.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM AND PHOTO: NEW BALANCESINGAPORE

Jermaine Pennant is the S-League's highest profile player and if he can deliver the goods on the pitch, the Tampines Rovers man can raise the profile of Singapore football just like what David Beckham and Steven Gerrard did in the United States' Major League Soccer.

As Pennant, 33, is set to sign a one-year deal with Tampines Rovers on Tuesday, former Liverpool stars Robbie Fowler and Jason McAteer agree that if the winger can perform, the local league will grow.

"It brings profile, like when Robbie (Fowler) went over to Australia, all of a sudden there's a massive interest to watch football," said McAteer, who played for the Reds from 1995 to 1999.

A POSSIBLE INFLUENCE

If he shows the same standard as the way he was playing in the EPL, then the league is obviously going to benefit.

''ROBBIE FOWLER , on how Jermaine Pennant can have an impact on the S-League.

"And when Steven Gerrard, David Beckham, Robbie Keane went to America, there's (also) massive interest. It will be the same here. More eyes will be on the players and the league."

Fowler, who played in Australia for Perth Glory from 2009 to 2011 and for Thai Premier League club Muangthong United from 2011-2012, added: "When you get players of his calibre to countries like Singapore to play football... if he shows the same standard as the way he was playing in the English Premier League (EPL), then the league is obviously going to benefit."

But given that Pennant's last taste of EPL action was in 2014 with Stoke City and coupled with his bad-boy reputation, question marks linger over the 33-year-old.

But Fowler, Liverpool's fifth-highest scorer of all time with 183 goals in 369 appearances for the club, does not doubt Pennant's ability as a footballer.

The 40-year-old ex-England striker said: "We haven't seen Jermaine Pennant play for a good few years now, (but) he's been a great quality player in the past.

"When you get players of his calibre over here to countries like Singapore to play football, you want people to come out and watch him. Hopefully, that's the case."

Fowler and McAteer spoke to The Sunday Times yesterday afternoon on the sidelines of a meet-and-greet session at Courts Megastore in Tampines, where they signed autographs and posed for photographs with about 100 fans.

And the duo expressed hope that Pennant's move here, which will make him the S-League's highest paid player ever at $40,000 monthly, will encourage more EPL players to follow suit in the future.

Fowler said: "If you start attracting the Jermaine Pennants, and he goes and speak to his friends at home, and says 'Listen, I'm having a great time, the football is good, the standard is good, why don't you come over?'

"So hopefully, that will set a bit of a trend and people jump on board... Fingers crossed, hopefully, this will be a catalyst for Singapore football.

"He's been a proven very, very good player in the EPL. He's come over here, and I admire people who want to travel and want to play football."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 17, 2016, with the headline 'Pennant can spur S-League interest: Fowler & McAteer'. Print Edition | Subscribe