His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah ibni His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office in a group photo with the DPMM FC players, coaches and management members. PHOTOS: FADHIL YUNUS
BY Fadhil Yunus
His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah ibni His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office joined the newly crowned AIA Singapore Premier League 2019 champions for a group photo at the end of a training session at the Jerudong Mini Stadium on Tuesday.
His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, who is the club’s Chairman, met the club’s players, officials and head coach Adrian Pennock.
The Gegar Gegar men sealed the league title after nearest rivals Hougang United – who needed a win to prolong the title race – ended their match in a 4-4 draw against Geylang International FC at the Our Tampines Hub in Singapore last Sunday.
After the players completed their final training session ahead of a league game against Tampines Rovers FC at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium tonight, they appeared to be in a celebratory mood as they broke into song and waved the club’s flag.
Pennock was also seen embracing members of the management including Team Manager Ali Momin as players, coaching staff and management alike gathered for a group photo.
The head coach emphasised that it is no easy feat to win a league championship regardless where it is being held.
“Whatever league you are in around the world, it is very hard to win the league be it the English Premier League, the Singapore Premier League or Italian. It doesn’t matter,” said Pennock in an interview with the Bulletin on Tuesday.
“The Singapore league is a very good league and very difficult to win. But, we are so happy and to do it with two more games left plus the best goal difference, the best defence and top goal-scorer, it’s a testament to every player that worked very hard.”
DPMM FC players celebrate after their training session
He added, “I’ve come here, embraced the culture, the people and I’ve given everything. It’s for everybody connected with DPMM FC especially the fans who have been unbelievable.”
Pennock, who won the league title in his first season at the helm, highlighted their excellent home record which saw them without defeat, winning 11 in 12 games.
“Our record at home is unbelievable. Our home stadium has been a fortress. I’m very happy,” he continued.
Asked if there were any highlights that he could pick which may fuel extra belief of coming good this season, Pennock recalled their hard work during pre-season.
“I think the game against Hougang when we scored in the last minute, obviously it is very important. But for me, it started in the first day of pre-season.
“I said to the boys it will be very hard. You can tell from their physique that they worked very hard and they worked hard in the gym. We’ve worked hard at Tasek Lama and also in Thailand (during the pre-season friendly).
“On my first day, I told the boys that it will be very hard and I promised that there will be big rewards. Our reward is being the champion of Singapore Premier League 2019.”
The former Gillingham manager has indicated that he will field his strongest team in the match against the Stags, who are still in a shout for second place.
“We will be professional tomorrow evening against Tampines because we have to be honest to the Singapore Premier League. I’ll put my strongest team out because we have to be honest in respect of Tampines and Hougang.”
Pennock highlighted that they learnt a valuable lesson from their previous encounter against Tampines who inflicted their first league loss of the season.
“The Tampines game was the first bad result that we had. We had a big break and it didn’t help us at all. We came back very rusty but what we’ve done was we learnt from it and we bounced back.
“We’ve been top of the league for most of the season and it takes some achievement to do that because everybody wants to beat the team at the top of the league. To be at the top of the league for the majority of the season is a testament to the players.”
The head coach aimed to collect six points in their remaining two games against very difficult sides.
He continued, “We have two games to play and we want to have all six points. We’re not going to turn up and roll over. We’re going to give our all.”
The Ipswich-born also expressed relief that the title has already been sewn without having the need to play a potential title decider.
“I think it’s a big relief and I don’t think we had any help at all over the season. We’ve done it ourselves by being the champions,” he said.
-- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin