I’m not at Tampines for the money, says Pennant

Former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant's priority is to grow the S.League and begin a new chapter in his footballing career, with a deal to play for Tampines Rovers to be announced in the next few days. 

According to a report from TODAY, Pennant has agreed personal terms with the club in a deal that puts him in line to be the highest paid footballer in the history of the S.League.

The former England youth international will draw a salary of approximately S$62,400 a month here – a sum still significantly less than the £25,000 (S$52,000) he commanded weekly when he was playing at English Championship side Wigan Athletic last season, however.

Despite the 70 per cent pay cut he is set to undertake, the 32-year-old insisted money was not the main motivation behind him joining Tampines, while revealing that the deal will likely be announced in the next couple of days.

“I don’t want to jump the gun, but there’s more likelihood of it (the deal) happening,” he emphasised after his side’s training session at Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday evening.

“Pay isn’t really an issue. I believe that if I do well at Tampines, I’ll get rewarded in a different way in the long run.

“The main things now are accommodation and arranging a flight for my family to come over. It’s a standard procedure for players coming over here to get an apartment and I think the club will help me with that.

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“As for transportation, it won’t be much of an issue since Singapore is rather small. I can always use [transportation network company] Uber.”

It has been only a week since Pennant touched down on local shores, but the former England Under-21 winger has already been impressed with his new teammates and the Singapore way of life.

“It’s a great country to be honest,” he shared. “It’s very clean and modern, very relaxed; it has all the things you want in a major city.

“It’s like being in a mini-England and mini-America combined, so it’s pretty comfortable here. The weather’s been fantastic as well.

“The players that I’ve been training are very technical and quick; they train hard and have a great attitude, so I’ve been impressed with everything so far and I’m hoping for a good season ahead.”

Not all has been rosy for Pennant though as he reveals that he is still getting to grips in terms of the eight-hour difference between Singapore and England.

“The main challenge for me now is sleeping,” he chuckled. “I seemed to wake up at four in the morning for the last few days, but fortunately I’ve got some sleeping tablets and I’ll keep using them.”

Despite having played at the highest level with clubs like Arsenal and Liverpool, Pennant does not believe playing in the S.League is a step down for him.

“It’s still tough and it’s never going to be easy,” he insisted. “Sometimes when you play in a lower division, it gets even harder.

“You’ve to work even harder because you are not surrounded by gifted players, who can make your job easier. So I’ve to probably work a little harder, but that’s what I came here for and I’m looking for a challenge.”

Pennant also hopes this will set a precedent for high-profile European footballers to consider Singapore as a viable playing destination.

“That’s the plan and hopefully we can open the gates for these players to come in,” he said. “If we can do it, then I can stand tall and say that ‘I helped this league grow and I was a big part of it’."

Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo