After two years of underachievement, the Warriors finally returned to the big time by clinching their first S.League title since 2009. Can they do it all over again?
What happened in 2014?
Home ground: Woodlands Stadium, Singapore
Nickname: The Warriors
Last Season: Champions
League Cup: Group Stage
Singapore Cup: First Round
After two successive bottom-half finishes, expectations were low in 2014 – something which the Warriors thrived on as they started the season strongly, suffering just one defeat in the first nine games.
While the Warriors' form dropped midway through as they bowed out of both cup competitions early, they picked themselves up at the business end of the season with four straight wins. With DPMM’s late collapse, they managed to reclaim the big prize for the first time in five years.
The title win last year has come at a cost in the off-season. While they have managed to retain all five foreigners from last year, they have lost a bit of depth on the locals’ front – with the likes of Hassan Sunny, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Ismail Yunos, Suria Prakash and Agu Casmir all gone.
In come Daniel Ong, Emmeric Ong, Andy Ahmad and the former Hougang United duo of Syaqir Sulaiman and Fazli Jaafar to bolster the squad as they look to challenge locally as well as on the continental stage (AFC Cup).
The Gaffer – Alex Weaver
The young Englishman has come a long way since arriving in local shores in 2013. Unceremoniously dismissed by Hougang United six games into the season, he took the Warriors hot seat midway that year but failed to inspire them to a top-half finish.
Things were totally different in 2014 though as his meticulous training methods and shrewd signings meant the Warriors picked up an unexpected title triumph in what was his first full season.
It will be interesting to see how he builds on last season’s success.
While most teams have to bed in their new foreigners, there is no such issue for the Warriors. The likes of Marin Vidosevic, Thomas Beattie, Kevin McCann, Miroslav Pejic and Nicolas Velez are familiar with the local culture as well as Weaver’s tactics, which could prove to be a handy advantage over other teams.
Pejic and Velez both stood out last season with enterprising attacking displays, as the latter’s 21 league goals proved pivotal in pushing them to the title.
On paper, this season’s squad looks rather inexperienced compared to the class of 2014, where the likes of Hassan, Zulfadli and Ismail had experience being in successful sides.
New acquisitions like Syaqir, Fazli and Andy will need time to cope with the pressure of being at a top club, while Emmeric Ong, Azlan Abdul Razak and Marcus Wheeler will have to step in if injuries start to hit the squad.
Will they be able to adapt to their new responsibilities? That will be a vital question to be answered this season.
Players To Watch
- Nicolas Velez
Named S.League’s Young Player of the Year last season, Velez was one of the success stories of the Warriors’ spectacular campaign. The 24-year-old Argentine never looked back after a four-goal feat against Albirex Niigata (Singapore) eight games into the season – finishing joint-second top scorer.
Set to spearhead the Warriors FC attack once again, his acceleration and sharpness in the penalty area will be pivotal to a strong season.
- Miroslav Pejic
While Velez grabs the goals, Pejic’s presence in the Warriors attack should not be overlooked.
Capable of playing upfront as well as on the wings, the 29-year-old Croatian’s technical ability ensured Velez and the rest of the attackers could flourish. Having been left out of their AFC Cup squad, he should feature heavily in league games.
- Andy Ahmad
The season has not officially started, but it seems Andy is already a rising star in this Warriors setup.
Goalscoring contributions against Yadanarbon and Persipura Jayapura aside, the 23-year-old’s pace and fearlessness in taking on opponents will help stretch defences late on.
Kenneth's 2015 S.League Prediction: 5th
A lack of experienced veterans might prove the difference over the course of a long league season.