Will Jermaine Pennant be among those lining up against Mohun Bagan when Tampines Rovers meet the I-League champions in an Asian Champions League qualifier at the Salt Lake stadium on Wednesday?
Coming on in the 67th minute, Pennant’s assist helped Tampines Rovers win a friendly against Malaysia Premier League outfit Johor Darul Ta’zim II 1-0 on Wednesday. And this was hours after he had joined!
Should Pennant, a former Arsenal and Liverpool player, play against Mohun Bagan, it would be the first time he would have got a run out at this venue. Pennant played for FC Pune City in the Indian Super League in 2014 and though he joined the franchise in Kolkata on November 6, one day before their game against Atletico de Kolkata, the wide midfielder didn’t play.
Since the ISL which Pennant had told HT he had joined “to play some football and get myself back on the radar again”, he joined Wigan Athletic but couldn’t stop them from being relegated to the third tier of English football.
On Wednesday, the 33-year-old joined the Singapore S-League club on a one-year deal with the option of extending it by another year. It is rumoured that his salary is in the range of $25,000 to $40,000 a month. Tampines Rovers’ chairman Krishna Ramachandra hasn’t been forthcoming with figures but has been quoted in the media as saying Pennant’s salary is “sexy.”
In 1999, Pennant was a record £2 million signing for Arsenal but from early on, controversies became part of his career. Pennant once played a match wearing an electronic tag because he was under surveillance and has sought professional help to get his life back on track in 2012 and 2013. Before this deal was inked, Pennant’s former girlfriend, Lara Murphy, wrote to the club complaining against him.
“…(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,” he was quoted as saying by Singapore’s The New Paper on Thursday.
That also perhaps explains why despite having a Man-of-the-Match award in a Champions League final (for Liverpool in a losing cause in 2007), Pennant never represented the senior England side.
“Ability-wise I could have got a chance. You want your best playing for your country. But then David Beckham is so much more than a footballer while I kept getting judged by my past issues... Know what, I think I am the only English footballer to have played a Champions League final, been adjudged Man of the Match, and still not play for England,” Pennant had told HT in an interview in 2014, his first in India.