News • February 10, 2016
S.League 2016 Team Preview: Tampines Rovers
Written by: Stanley Yeo
Tampines Rovers may have finished second in the 2015 Great Yeo’s Eastern S.League four points behind champions Brunei DPMM, but the race for the title was much closer than that.
In fact, the title race went down to the wire as it had to be decided on the final day of the season when both the Stags and Wasps took on Harimau Muda and Balestier Khalsa respectively.
The Stags needed to beat the Young Tigers and hope for Balestier to hand DPMM a defeat, but in the end, Tampines were held to a 1-1 draw and the Wasps beat Balestier to claim their first ever S.league title.
Despite coming so close securing the title, being second-best was simply not enough for a club of Tampines’ tradition and stature.
The Stags made it abundantly clear that they would not allow history to repeat itself as newly appointed chairman Krishna Ramachandra swiftly raided the disbanded LionsXII for eight players that included Shahdan Sulaiman and Christopher Van Huizen.
However, Tampines were not done just yet as they made global headlines by signing former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant, who is arguably the most significant footballer to ever play in the S.League.
With Pennant joined on the flanks by Van Huizen and Jordan Webb, plus the likes of Shahdan, Izzdin Shafiq and Yasir Hanapi in the engine room, Tampines have one of the strongest midfield assembled in the league.
In addition, with the likes of Izwan Mahbud, Shakir Hamzah, Hafiz Sujad, Noh Rahman and Afiq Yunos in defence, together with 2015 leading local-born scorer Fazrul Nawaz and goal-machine Billy Mehmet leading the attack, the Stags look truly unstoppable on paper.
Ramachandra has refused to put pressure on his side by predicting a top three finish for the club, but the galore of signings that have arrived at Jurong West Stadium definitely makes the Stags firm favourites for the title.
Coach Profile – V. Sundramoorthy
After snagging up to eight LionsXII players plus the likes of Fazrul Nawaz and Jermaine Pennant, head coach V. Sundramoorthy knows that the pressure to deliver on the pitch this year will be much greater.
Sundram is well-known for his cautious tactics and approach to matches, preferring to build a solid base at the back before going forward.
It has brought him success at his previous clubs, like winning the 2013 Malaysian Super League title with LionsXII.
However, faced with the an embarrassment of riches available to him in terms of attacking players and a strong midfield, Sundram might be tempted to go on the offensive instead from now on.
Star Player – Jermaine Pennant
Whether Jermaine Pennant will live up to his tag as S.League’s most expensive player will be one of the most asked question this season.
No one has any doubts about Pennant’s quality as a player because he has graced the biggest footballing theatres like Highbury and Anfield. It is his attitude as a player that is questionable.
Despite scoring a hat-trick on his full Premier League debut for Arsenal against Southampton, he was offloaded by Arsene Wenger to Birmingham City due to disciplinary issues.
At Birmingham City, discipline issues cropped up once again as he was arrested and convicted for drink-driving.
Now a 33-year-old , Pennant is eager to bury his troubled past and help the Stags elevate themselves into glory.
In his signing ceremony, Pennant was quick to acknowledge his responsibility as the biggest signing in S.League’s history.
“I know what I am here for. I am here to help the league and I will certainly try my best.” the Englishman said.
If Pennant keeps his promise to stay out of trouble on and off the pitch, then he can truly say he has found redemption in Singapore.
Tampines Rovers 2016 S.League squad
Christopher van Huizen