The Pennant era at Tampines Rovers officially set to kick off
It’s a moment that should be celebrated as a player that excelled for Liverpool in a Champions League final and graced some of football’s biggest and best stadiums continues his career in Singapore.
Granted Pennant turned 33 last Friday, an age where wingers are undeniably in decline. Their speed off the mark and endurance inevitably starts to fade, but that is no reason why Tampines fans shouldn’t be excited at his arrival.
It has been well documented that Pennant is no angel, having found himself in trouble with both the law and some of his former clubs across his career, which began way back in 1998.
But footballing institutions the stature of Liverpool and Arsenal don’t come calling for just anybody. Pennant is blessed with footballing gifts, gifts that surely remain intact enough for him to make an impact at the S.League’s modest level.
Following a number of difficult years for the national competition, the S.League is enjoying a wave of goodwill right now.
With the focus finally being pried away from LionsXII, an outfit which commanded so much attention from the media and the footballing public, the domestic league has been flooded with positive press.
While Tampines’ impressive recruiting drive meant they have strengthened significantly, snaring no less than nine former LionsXII representatives, virtually all clubs have added some lustre to their line-ups.
Madhu Mohana (Warriors FC) and Khairul Amri (Young Lions) are two examples of players that should give their new clubs an instant boost.
The player movements have led to a glut of articles nation-wide that have brought welcome attention to all nine of the S.League’s teams.
It was already an off-season for S.League officials to savour, even before Pennant became linked with the Stags.
But while the filtering of LionsXII players back into the domestic league brought national attention, Pennant’s partnership with Singapore demanded international headlines.
Sure they haven’t been universally positive, but what is it they say about publicity?
Perhaps the number one complaint or criticism that is levelled regularly at the S.League is that it can’t attract fans like it did in its heyday.
There can be no doubt whatsoever that Pennant will attract more people to games, even if it’s just once to see what all the fuss has been about. If some of those patrons take along their sons or daughters and they enjoy the sport, suddenly you have a new generation keen to attend fixtures in the flesh.
And if Pennant can perform and show some of that old magic, those same people will want to keep coming back.
It is also hoped the Englishman, who has been talking up his new home, may let some of his old mates back home know about his experience and continue the path of players heading to Singapore to finish off their careers.
Admittedly fading stars heading to Singapore isn’t the ideal model to help reinvigorate the league, but you have to start somewhere. Players such as Dwight Yorke and Alessandro del Piero did wonders for the A-League.
The arrival of talent the calibre of David Beckham and Thierry Henry finally helped put America’s Major League Soccer well and truly on the map.
Pennant may in fact prove he doesn’t have what it takes to compete as a professional anymore. His recent stints elsewhere didn’t end well. But either way, it was worth the risk for a league crying out for star power.
Main photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo