Season 2014 was a disappointing season by Home United’s high standards. With a new coach and new signings at the club, can they claim their first title in 12 years?
What happened in 2014?
Home ground: Yishun Stadium, Singapore
Nickname: The Protectors
Last Season: 4th place
League Cup: Quarter-finalists
Singapore Cup: Finalists
Having strengthened their squad significantly, many were touting the Protectors as favourites to clinch the S.League title. However, apart from some sparkling early-season form, they struggled to find consistency throughout.
A shock 3-2 win at Brunei DPMM pulled them back into the title race with just four games to go but they contrived to lose three of those – eventually finishing in fourth position, nine points behind eventual champions Warriors FC.
There are wholesale changes this off-season, both in terms of coaching and playing personnel. Rookie coach Philippe Aw has replaced Lee Lim-Saeng in the hot seat, while the likes of Indra Sahdan, Qiu Li, Fazrul Nawaz, Kwon Dakyung, Bruno Castanheira and Lee Kwan-Woo have all been released.
In comes former Tampines Rovers personnel in Hyrulnizam Ju’maat, Ang Zhi Wei, Abdil Qaiyyim and Imran Sahib, as well as exciting foreign additions in former Bundesliga forward Ken Ilsø Larsen, ex-Tanjong Pagar United player Kamel Ramdani and former France Under-16 international Ambroise Begue.
The Gaffer – Philippe Aw
It came as a huge surprise to the local football fraternity when Aw was selected for the top role after the long-serving Lee stepped down following five years in charge.
The 39-year-old was rewarded for his ability to galvanise the youngsters, having spent several years coaching the youth teams at the Bishan-based club – inspiring the undefeated Under-21s to the Prime League title last season.
All eyes will be on him as he attempts to handle the pressure which comes with the Protectors hot seat.
There will not be a lack of experience in this team, with the likes of Shahril Jantan, Juma’at Jantan, Noh Rahman, Masrezwan Masturi and Imran having several years of experience playing at the top level.
Other players like Ang, Abdil, Yasir Hanapi and Fazli Ayob are also approaching the peak of their careers, which means Aw has a largely dependable squad to rely on.
Part of the reason for Home’s slump last year was due to defensive deficiencies – having leaked the most number of goals amongst the top six sides, with only five shutouts all season.
Despite that, Aw has opted not to bring in a big foreign centre-back, something which could prove to be a disadvantage to his side.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how they cope upfront if hitman Ilsø succumbs to injury – young Nur Hizami Salim and veteran Masrezwan are the only natural backup options.
Players To Watch
- Ken Ilsø Larsen
28-year-old Ilsø arrives with a not-too-shabby CV, having plied his trade in the German Bundelisa as well as the Chinese Super League previously.
Without the likes of Indra, Qiu and Castanheira this season, the former Denmark youth international’s presence upfront is all the more important. Showing a wide array of finishing skills thus far in pre-season, the Protectors faithful will hope he keep up that good form.
- Kamel Ramdani
Whether Ilsø thrives upfront could largely depend on the service from midfield, and Ramdani’s playmaking abilities becomes of utmost importance.
During an injury-hit season the last time out, the 33-year-old Algerian’s influence was sorely missed last season as former club Tanjong Pagar struggled for creativity in the final third. Now fully fit again, he is an integral part to Home’s title quest.
- Yasir Hanapi
The 25-year-old was one of the few shining lights last season – showcasing his versatility in a number of positions as well as taking on the captaincy at times.
Equally capable in defence and midfield, his high work rate and stamina will help to break down gritty opponents.
Kenneth's 2015 S.League Prediction: 4th
The likes of Tampines, DPMM and Albirex look too strong for them in the title race. Protectors to finish just outside the medal places once again.