Looking into the future, S-League's a step up: Pennant

Clockwise from bottom left: Former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant arriving at Changi Airport yesterday morning after a seven-hour flight from Dubai. He signed autographs and took photos with the handful of fans who greeted him. Pennant
Pennant, who is in Singapore for a week-long trial, on the ball.ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN
Former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant arriving at Changi Airport yesterday morning after a seven-hour flight from Dubai. He signed autographs and took photos with the handful of fans who greeted him.
Former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant arriving at Changi Airport yesterday morning after a seven-hour flight from Dubai. He signed autographs and took photos with the handful of fans who greeted him. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Pennant chatting with Tampines Rovers head coach V. Sundramoorthy as they take a break from the club’s hour-long training session at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Pennant chatting with Tampines Rovers head coach V. Sundramoorthy as they take a break from the club’s hour-long training session at the Jalan Besar Stadium. ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN

He may have played in the 2007 Champions League final and has more than a decade of English Premier League experience under his belt, but Jermaine Pennant, the former Liverpool and Arsenal winger, insists that coming to the S-League is not considered a downgrade for his chequered career.

The 32-year-old Englishman arrived in Singapore yesterday at 8.45am for a week-long trial with Tampines Rovers and, after a short rest at the hotel, he joined the Stags' evening training at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Arriving half an hour early before the 5pm start time, Pennant was energetic and keen to earn a contract for the 2016 season.

"I won't say it's a step down, I would say it's a new challenge", said the winger. "It'll be a new experience both for me and for Tampines, to have a player of my stature here, and I think, as a team, we can all work together.

"It's definitely not a step down and, looking into the future, it's a step up."

And, although it is unconfirmed how much the winger will be paid if he is signed, it is almost certain that coming into the S-League would mean taking a massive pay cut from his reported weekly wages of £25,000 (S$52,590) drawn at Wigan, his last club. Local clubs seldom pay more than $10,000 monthly for foreign signings.

However, Pennant was realistic about his salary demands coming into Singapore.

Said the former England Under-21 international: "I know it's not a massive paying league so I don't expect to come here from English wages.

"I understand that there might be a drop but, at the same time, I'm sure they (Tampines Rovers) appreciate where I'm coming from and there are always deals and negotiations that can be made."

His positive attitude also translated onto the pitch, where he arrived early for training, eager to impress his prospective employers.

Showing almost no signs of jetlag, Pennant played with lots of energy and enthusiasm, showing glimpses of his fancy footwork and touches.

His nifty dribbling skills were also put on display as he easily feinted past markers. In addition, he was aggressive in defensive mode as he chased after the ball, which saw him slipping a couple of times on Jalan Besar's artificial pitch.

He ended the hour-long training session with multiple abrasions on his right knee but shrugged it off saying: "I'm happy and I'm enjoying it so far.

"The pitch is a little bit slippery, (because it is) artificial but I can work on it."

Tampines Rovers head coach V. Sundramoorthy felt that Pennant would be a good fit for his team.

The tactician said: "I'm looking for flankers and I think he's a player who can play on the flanks and someone who can play as a second striker as well, so he's more or less the kind of player I'm looking for."

"He has some nice touches and you can see from the way he's played today. I believe he needs to acclimatise and have a few more training sessions but I think he will move forward better after that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2016, with the headline 'Looking into the future, S-League's a step up: Pennant'. Print Edition | Subscribe