Eye On EPL

Sometimes all a struggling player needs is a new environment

I played through 15 seasons of the S-League and retired in 2014 with a record 381 goals. But do you know that it took me a few months for me to find my scoring boots?

Once my first goals arrived at Tanjong Pagar in 1999, however, it lifted the huge pressure off me, as there were some critics who had said that I was not good enough.

In retrospect, I just needed the one or two goals to find my confidence, but at the same time, I knew that my moment would arrive one day.

So I can identify with Stoke City midfielder Joe Allen and Everton goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who put in outstanding shifts over the weekend's English Premier League matches.

Stekelenburg's career looked to be on a decline, until he pulled off two penalty saves in Everton's 1-1 draw with league leaders Manchester City.

Becoming a professional footballer can be an incredibly demanding and stressful occupation. It takes determination and strength of character. Both Stekelenburg and Allen have shown that, sometimes, all you need is a new surrounding to regain the faith in yourself.

The 34-year-old Dutchman joins an exclusive club of just seven custodians who have made two penalty saves in a single English Premier League game.

He played in the final of the 2010 World Cup against Spain but, since then, he had lost his first-choice spot at Fulham, and was loaned out to Ajax and Southampton.

But signing for the Toffees in July has reunited him with his former manager Ronald Koeman, under whom he won the Dutch Eredivisie in 2004 with Ajax Amsterdam.

Perhaps the familiarity with a tactician whom he has tasted success with has helped him to find a second wind in his career.

After his heroic performance last week , his stock has risen and EPL fans, including myself, are searching his name on Google to re-acquiant ourselves with the Dutch goalkeeper.

With more performances like these, Stekelenburg could turn out to be one of the most astute signings of the season.

At 26, Allen is not exactly a late-bloomer but the Welshman has clearly found his feet at the Britannia Stadium, even though the club are struggling in 18th spot.

He scored both goals in Stoke's 2-0 home win against Sunderland and has four league goals from just eight games. That equals his best haul from the 2011/12 season and also matches what he managed in total in four injury-hit seasons with Liverpool.

That purple patch extends to the international scene. Allen scored his first two goals for his country and has become an important cog for Chris Coleman's side in their 2018 Fifa World Cup qualification campaign.

Not every player will thrive when you put them at a bigger club, because more eyes, pressure and expectations are on you.

Allen underwent that struggle when he went from Swansea to Liverpool in 2012, the pressure of being in a top club stifling his potential.

Being a professional footballer can be an incredibly demanding and stressful occupation. It takes determination and strength of character. Both Stekelenburg and Allen have shown that, sometimes, all you need is a new surrounding to regain the faith in yourself.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2016, with the headline 'Sometimes all a struggling player needs is a new environment'. Print Edition | Subscribe