Football: Stage set for Webb to make amends and seal Singapore Premier League for Tampines

Tampines Rovers forward Jordan Webb (centre) was the hat-trick hero who inspired the Stags to a comeback 3-1 win over the Young Lions.
Tampines Rovers forward Jordan Webb (centre) was the hat-trick hero who inspired the Stags to a comeback 3-1 win over the Young Lions.PHOTO: COURTESY FOR FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - With an equal propensity to excite and exasperate, Tampines Rovers forward Jordan Webb is undoubtedly one of the Singapore Premier League's (SPL) colourful personalities.

On Nov 17, the Canadian was the hat-trick hero who inspired the Stags to a comeback 3-1 win over the Young Lions and reached 101 SPL goals in 11 seasons. But just five days later, he was sent off for berating the referee, as his team were held 2-2 by bottom side Tanjong Pagar United, and suspended for two games.

Webb, 32, later posted a video apology on his Facebook page. Ahead of Wednesday's (Dec 2) key clash against Lion City Sailors, he said: "I messed up. I gave the referee an opportunity to send me off and I put my team in the position to play with 10 men when I could have stayed on the pitch to help them win the game. I could have avoided that.

"I know I need to react better to things, and channel the anger into something positive when things don't go my way. But it's easier said than done because I'm a passionate competitor.

"I'm just thankful I have my coaches and family supporting me, and I'm trying to be a better person on the field for my team."

Tampines managed to beat Hougang United 2-0 and Albirex Niigata 4-1 in his absence over the past week and now lead the standings on 27 points, one ahead of the Japanese side with two games left. They end their campaign against Geylang International on Saturday.

Victory over third-placed Sailors (23 points) would edge Tampines closer to the title - their last championship was in 2013 - and also confirm them as the highest-placed local team which brings with it a coveted spot in next season's AFC Champions League.

Albirex face bottom side Tanjong Pagar on Wednesday.

Webb, who scored one and had three assists when the Stags beat the Sailors 4-0 in March before the season was halted due to the pandemic, said: "We have to win this game before we talk about the next. The Sailors are a good team, but we believe we will play well as long as we keep our brand of football and stick to our game plan."

Webb had travelled 15,000km from Ontario, Canada to play for Sengkang Punggol (now known as Hougang) in 2010 on the recommendation of his cousin Anthony Bahadur, who was with the team the year before.

In doing so, he broke a two-year soccer scholarship with the Iowa Central Community College while his parents and three sisters were living in a shelter.

Webb would go on to win the Singapore Cup with Home United in 2013 and with Tampines last year, and is determined to add the league title this season.

Looking back at his 11 seasons here, Webb said: "It's not the English Premier League, but everyone's journey is different. I'm super grateful because Singapore gave me almost everything I could ask for.

"My first pay cheque here was $800, and I went on to being able to send money back to my family. I met great people and learnt a lot. I have played with Jermaine Pennant and Billy Mehmet, took my game to another level."

He was circumspect about his unsuccessful attempts to secure Singapore citizenship and play for the national team and said the process collapsed after former Lions coach Bernd Stange left in 2016.

"I had offers from Malaysia and Portugal but I chose to stay because we are building something special here," Webb said. "Not everyone likes the way I play, but I would be worried if nobody hates me. Luckily, I usually deliver - how many wingers can score 100 goals in a professional league?"

Tampines coach Gavin Lee said Webb, who has seven goals and four assists this term, comes from a different culture and can be easily misunderstood.

He noted: "Sometimes, people's first impression of him is not reflective of the genuine and compassionate person he is. Not many people will know the small gestures he does, such as buying fruits for everyone before every training session.

"He means well, connects well with the youths in outreach programmes, and has a good relationship with our younger players.

"We recognise the efforts who have come in and stepped up when we were without Jo, but it is always better to have him in the team than not, because he is a top player and always a threat with his goals and assists."