Jermaine Pennant just wants to play

ALL SMILES: New Tampines Rovers star Jermaine Pennant (above, left) shares a light-hearted moment with former club chairman Teo Hock Seng.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Former Liverpool and Arsenal winger Jermaine Pennant officially began his football adventure with Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League giants Tampines Rovers yesterday.

At a packed media conference at Komoco Motors on Alexandra Road, the 33-year-old put pen to paper on a one-year deal, with an option of a year's extension.

All smiles as he posed with the No. 9 jersey handed to him by former club chairman Teo Hock Seng, Pennant is eager for his football to do all the talking, as he looks to leave his chequered past behind.

Aware that his ex-fiancee, glamour model Lara Murphy, had recently sent an e-mail to Tampines making allegations over financial and family issues against the former England Under-21 star, Pennant stayed cool as he brushed aside the latest controversy.

"It's disappointing when (you're) trying to better your life and do good, and try and avoid the bad press," he told The New Paper.

"But (my past) is always going to be there, it's always going to follow me. I've got to deal with it, and the only way to do that is by doing better.

"If any ex-partners or anyone else wants to say lies and bad things... If that makes them feel better, then so be it.

"But it's not going to affect me, my chairman, my club, or my following."

He revealed he did have conversations with Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra over the allegations, and that any potential miscommunication had been avoided as a result.

"He's been honest and straight with me, and I've assured him it's not the first time that this has happened," said Pennant.

"But I just want to move past it.

"Even if it continues, it won't make a slight difference to what we've achieved today and what we can achieve."

Pennant was keen to maintain the feel-good atmosphere that accompanied his arrival at Tampines and the S.League.

Since he landed in Singapore on Jan 7, there has been a buzz around the club and the league that has not been seen in recent years.

Pennant last played at Wigan Athletic, but could not prevent the Latics from being relegated to the English third-tier, despite scoring three goals in 13 appearances.

He has been a free agent since his contract with the League One club expired last July.

Tampines are keeping details of his salary - believed to range between $25,000 and $40,000 a month - private, and Ramachandra yesterday would only describe the figure as being "sexy".

The Stags kick off their season with an Asian Football Confederation Champions League play-off against India's Mohun Bagan in Kolkata next Wednesday.

Pennant is not likely to feature as TNP understands he has not been registered in time.

THIGH INJURY

In addition, he is carrying a knock on his thigh which will limit his participation in Tampines' friendly against Johor Darul Ta'zim II tonight.

Tampines coach V Sundramoorthy also suggested he would gradually blood Pennant into his first 11 by giving him "30 or 40 minutes" so he can finish the season playing like "the same player we saw at Arsenal and Liverpool".

Pennant, who will take the S.League's mandatory 2.4km fitness test on Friday, said: "I totally respect (Sundram's) decision where he doesn't give me a full 90 minutes straight away, because it's a long season... I understand where he's coming from.

"Anyway, I don't think I'm going to not play a full 90 minutes, I think he's just talking about the initial (period) until I get to that point where he knows I'm at full flow every game."

Ramachandra, who succeeded Teo last November, is thrilled with the boost Pennant's signing has given the S.League.

"I'm extremely delighted for Tampines, but my greatest joy is in knowing that Singapore football and the S.League have a second chance," he said.

"It's actually a good product... and we should all do what we can to support the S.League.

"So it really was a heartfelt moment for me to see today that there's recognition and validation for what we are doing as a club."

msazali@sph.com.sg

This article was first published on January 20, 2016.
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