Star Man – Daniel Bennett, Geylang International

Daniel Bennett is embarking on his 21st season as a professional at the age of 38 in new colours, but the centre-back is adamant he has lost none of the appetite that has led to his trophy-laden career in Singapore.

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Much of the pre-season build up going into the 2016 S.League season has centred on the capture of former Liverpool and Arsenal winger Jermaine Pennant by Tampines Rovers and how much of a boost the Englishman’s signing will be to the local league.

Amidst the entire hubbub, the transfer of another English-born footballer has surprisingly gone under the radar.

After nine successful seasons with Warriors FC, where he won four league titles and the Singapore Cup twice, Daniel Bennett swapped the blue kit for the famous green and white hoops of Geylang International.

While there were murmurs of an impending retirement, Bennett revealed to FourFourTwo that hanging up his boots was never an option before he decided to take up the Eagles’ offer.

“Playing football has to be the best job in the world so I never considered (retiring),” said Bennett.

“I enjoy coming into training and playing the game and on top of that Geylang is a fantastic football club with a sound management team who really wanted me to come on board.

“This is a new challenge for me, to guide the talented young players in the squad with the experience that I have and I am excited to be part of a club that is definitely heading in the right direction.”

With 128 Singapore appearances and three ASEAN titles under his belt – in 2004, 2007 and 2012 – Bennett’s last appearance for the Lions came almost three years ago.

I’ll let people say what they want but I will carry on giving my best every time I step on to the pitch.

Yet the 2001 S.League Player of the Year was quick to rubbish claims that he is no longer fit enough to feature for Bernd Stange’s side.

He said: “Honestly, I don’t need to say anything for myself.

“Just two seasons ago, I was playing at the heart of the defence for Warriors and we lifted the trophy that season.

“So I’ll let people say what they want but I will carry on giving my best every time I step on to the pitch.”

It is out on the pitch that Bennett will be hoping to quickly strike up a rapport with right-back Faritz Hameed, winger Gabriel Quak and forward Sahil Suhaimi – the trio that joined from the disbanded LionsXII.

Bennett believes that the LionsXII’s expulsion from the Malaysia Super League is a blessing in disguise.

“I think it is fantastic that some of our best players are back playing in the S.League and if I am being honest, Malaysia have done us a huge favour,” the lanky defender said.

“That (return of LionsXII players) along with Pennant’s signing has created an excitement in the league that I have not seen in a long time.

“I never had so many people calling me for interviews.”

With the Eagles assembling a strong squad for the upcoming season, Bennett could well be on the cusp of a sixth S.League title.

But while he praised his side’s team spirit and individual qualities, Bennett knows that the coming season may be the toughest yet.

He said: “Tampines have to be favourites with how they have spent, so the pressure is on them.

“But you look around in the league and there are plenty of other teams who have strong squads this year as well like Hougang United and the likes of Brunei DPMM and Albirex Niigata will be up there as well.

“It is a long season and you never know what can happen.”

No matter how the season pans out, fans can rest assured that one of Singapore’s most celebrated defenders is still in it to win it.

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