Teo: Krishna proved his credentials by bringing in Pennant

Former Tampines Rovers chairman Teo Hock Seng is impressed by how successor Krishna Ramachandra was able to attract Jermaine Pennant to Singapore, admitting he “never dreamt” of bringing in a player of his calibre during his 15 years in charge. 

Krishna, formerly the club’s vice-chairman, took over from 69-year-old Teo towards the end of last season after the latter decided to step down due to health issues.

I’m shocked and surprised, but happy Krishna has assembled a good team

- Teo Hock Seng

The 44-year-old lawyer has wasted little time making an impact in his new role, partnering with Brazilian legend Ronaldinho to open a football academy in Singapore, convincing a raft of LionsXII players to join their ranks and now securing former Arsenal and Liverpool player Pennant’s services.

“When you pass the baton to the next runner, somehow he runs a lot faster than you,” quipped Teo, now club advisor, during Pennant’s signing ceremony, which doubled as the Stags’ 2016 squad unveiling at the Komoco Motors showroom on Tuesday.

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“I’m shocked and surprised, but happy at the same time that Krishna has assembled a good team with coach Sundram (V.Sundramoorthy). In my 15 years in charge, I never dreamt of bringing in a former EPL (English Premier League) player into the S.League.

“Though sometimes we had the money, we did not have the capability to attract them here. It’s great that Pennant is now here to boost our football.

“Hopefully by the later part of this year, we will be able to go back to our original home at Tampines Stadium. That was where we had the record for the most number of fans, with an average attendance of 3,500 fans per game.

“The new stadium should be able to hold 7,000 fans; I believe the presence of a former EPL player and a few former LionsXII players will help us boost the attendance up.”

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Krishna played down Teo’s praise though, instead focusing on how his predecessor helped him to adapt along the way.

“As the Chinese would say, he’s my lao da (Chinese word for ‘boss’),” he said. “It’s been great to be able to learn from the leadership skills of Mr Teo for the past five years as vice-chairman.

“To be honest, I was a bit nervous on taking over from him because those shoes were huge to fill. I’m happy that he gave me full authority and freedom in terms of what is needed to be done, instead of interfering.

“He’s always there on my side for counsel; it’s a real privilege to learn from such an immense guy and that is good for a young leader like me.”

Meanwhile, Krishna is happy that many sponsors have come on board to help fund Pennant’s hefty salary.

“What you see today is the icing on the cake,” he said. “There’s a lot of hard work in the months and weeks leading to this in terms of getting sponsors to step up and enrol into Singapore football.

Krishna (left) alongside S.League chairman Lim Chin

“I’m happy that apart from Komoco Motors, we have Red Card Group as a cash and media sponsor and an exciting new apparel sponsor in Decathlon. In addition, my law firm Duane Morris & Selvam LLP has also come in and provided a component where players in the twilight of their career can step into the corporate setting.”

With such a handy squad on paper, Tampines are looking like the heavy title favourites this coming season.

Pennant himself declared that taking out the league was among his ambitions this season, but Krishna refuses to be committal on his targets for the Stags.

“This may sound like a cliché answer, but I have not set any targets for this team,” he said. “These players understand the club’s philosophy and will give 100 per cent for us.

“The natural equation of a set of top-class players will be the by-product of what we can achieve.

“I believe the players have their own personal targets to succeed here.” 

Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo