Continuity is the key word for Home United's new season with 12 players retained, so will that help the Protectors pip favourites Tampines Rovers to the title?
HOME UNITED 2016 S.LEAGUE SQUAD
- Hyrulnizam Juma’at
- Zulfairuuz Rudy
- Eko Pradana Putra
- Ang Zhiwei
- Redzwan Atan
- Juma’at Jantan
- R Aaravin
- Shahrin Saberin
- Abdil Qaiyyim
- Luqman Ismail
- Sim Teck Yi
- Sufianto Salleh
- Sirina Camara
- Zulfahmi Arifin
- Shamil Sharif
- Mahathir Azeman
- Aqhari Abdullah
- Syahiran Miswan
- Amir Zailani
- Azhar Sairudin
- Song Uiyong
- Ambroise Begue
- Faris Ramli
- Ken Ilso
- Khairul Nizam
- Nur Hizami
- Irfan Fandi
- Ikhsan Fandi
Then the moment came in the 72nd minute. Home are awarded a corner on the right. The no-brainer thing to do at that time is to play the ball into the six-yard box, hoping that someone would capitalise.
But the Protectors under Philippe Aw would not alter their approach, even during such a high-octane match. At the risk of losing possession and being counter-attacked, they played it short and invited the White Swans to pressure.
From there, Azhar Sairudin sent Yasir Hanapi racing down the right byline and the latter in turn produced a teasing ball into the six-yard box for centre-back Abdil Qaiyyim to thump home.
It was clockwork from Home and exemplified their 2015 season, never mind the fact that they conceded two late goals to surrender the Cup to Albirex.
That was exactly the style of football that entertained the fans and earned them many admirers as the season went along. No complaints about that, the only issue was how long they took to adapt to the style of play.
After just three wins in their first 12 matches, the Protectors finally clicked into gear with a superb 10-match unbeaten run midway through the campaign. By then, however, it was too late to mount a serious title challenge. Despite not attaining any silverware in 2015, Home displayed an attractive brand of football under promising coach Aw that thrilled the fans.
Not keen to have a repeat of going empty-handed again, however, Aw has opted for continuity within the Home ranks – retaining up to 13 players as he looks to pick up where he left off last season.
Among those who stayed are the experienced Juma’at Jantan, a maturing Abdil, star playmaker Azhar and goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Juma’at.
Four of their five foreigners from last season have also bee retained.
French wing-back Sirina Camara and South Korean hard man Song Uiyong are staying for their fourth and third successive years respectively, while Camara’s young compatriot Ambroise Begue will continue his development with the Prime League squad.
The biggest coup of all must be holding on to the impressive Danish hitman Ken Ilso, who was subject to a number of lucrative offers during the off-season.
With the former Bundesliga forward looking isolated upfront at times in 2015, the Bishan-based club has also strengthened well in the attacking department with the arrival of former LionsXII trio Zulfahmi Arifin, Faris Ramli and Khairul Nizam, as well as the two Fandi brothers, Irfan and Ikhsan.
Added to that, they have also secured the services of promising midfielder Mahathir Azeman, who played in Brazil with the Boavista SC under-21 side. In line with the club’s youth policy, several promising youngsters have been promoted from the Prime League squad.
Amongst those are the duo of R Aaravin and Shahrin Saberin, who featured in the first team last season, as well as the little-known Luqman Ismail and Amir Zailani.
While it is looking like a young and exciting squad, the worry is that the lack of experienced heads like Noh Rahman or Shahril Jantan may see them struggle during rough waters.
It will be interesting to see how this current crop of Home players go about proving wrong Alan Hansen’s famous utterance that “you can’t win anything with kids”.
FFT'S S.LEAGUE PREDICTION: 2nd
Stable squad with attractive brand of football, but Tampines Rovers could prove too strong.
KEEP CLICKING BELOW FOR OUR COMPREHENSIVE HOME PREVIEW
COACH CORNER – Phillipe Aw
The trainer has transformed Home into a slick passing and attacking outfit, but eyes will be on them to belatedly begin delivering the results this season.
STAR MAN – Ken Ilso
Ken Ilso certainly made an impact in the S.League last season, and the former Bundesliga forward believes the squad have ability to stay the cource for silverware.
For more about one of Home United's key men, click here.
VIEW FROM THE FANS
He's glad star striker Ken Ilso remained faitful to Home despite massive offers from abroad and hopes the team can lift their first title since 2003. Read all about his journey as a fan here.
YOUNG GUN – Sufianto Salleh
A player who believes he has matured tremendously at Home, read more about the wing-back's story so far right here.
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