Jermaine Pennant won't run riot in S.League says Geylang's Bennett
Geylang International defender Daniel Bennett believes that his side have what it takes to contain Jermaine Pennant when they take on the ex-Liverpool winger's star-studded Tampines Rovers in their S.League season opener.
The two sides will meet on Monday night, with a large crowd predicted at the Jurong West Stadium to see the English import's much-anticipated debut.
The task of keeping Pennant quiet will not be easy for the Eagles, with Bennett and team captain Isa Halim missing the game, due to suspensions carried over from last season.
However, with several new signings like Gabriel Quak, Al-Qaasimy Rahman and Sahil Suhaimi, Bennett believes that the revamped Geylang side will handle the biggest signing in S.League history.
"A lot of these boys have played against top class sides and players over the last few years," the 38-year-old told ESPN FC. "Some of them played against Stoke City and Arsenal in the Barclays Asia Trophy last year, so they should be strong and experienced enough to deal with this pressure.
"Obviously it's very good that Pennant's arrival has brought a lot of attention to the league and we're happy that he's here. But when he comes onto the pitch, it's a different story with two sides trying to take down each other."
Former Singapore international Bennett faced up to future internationals like Wayne Rooney when he played in the English lower leagues more than a decade ago.
"When I was playing with Wrexham, I encountered a lot of players who dropped down from the English Premier League, not dissimilar to Pennant. There's actually only a very small difference between these players and those players who we had. They also have two hands and two legs, so I believe our team can deal with him."
Geylang officially unveiled their 24-strong S.League squad on Wednesday. After a lacklustre 2015 in which they finished eighth out of 10 teams, the management retained only four players and brought in a slew of signings from the now disbanded LionsXII, plus former Young Lions like Isa, Gabriel and goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari.
The squad now has an average age of 26, something which has thrilled Bennett. He decided to jump ship to the Eagles after nine trophy-laden years with Warriors FC.
"It's exciting to come to a team where there's a lot of youngsters because I've been playing with more experienced players all this while -- I feel young again," said the English-born Singaporean.
"I'm glad to be playing with them than against them. Some of the things which they do in training are amazing and the addition of these players makes a real difference to the team.
"With all these exciting players, I believe we have a team that can challenge for honours. That's the exact reason why I came to the club."
There is also a new man at the helm for Geylang, with the young and inexperienced Hasrin Jailani taking over the reins from Jorg Steinebrunner. The 40-year-old, who was part of their last title-winning squad in 2001, is taking charge of an S.League team for the very first time.
"To be appointed head coach of Geylang is a dream come true for me," said the former Singapore international.
"I was part of that special Geylang team and I learnt a lot from that experience -- how important it is for a team to have strong camaraderie, be united and fight for each other on and off the pitch.
"The team bonded well in pre-season, with all 24 players passing the 2.4km test. I'm confident that this will be an exciting year for the club."