Two years without silverware is a massive underachievement for a club like Tampines Rovers. Can the Stags’ class of 2016 live up to expectations and deliver a sixth S.League title for their silverware-hungry fans?
Tampines 2016 S.LEAGUE SQUAD
- Izwan Mahbud
- Joey Sim
- Ismadi Mukhtar
- Noh Rahman
- Irwan Shah
- Jufri Taha
- Afiq Yunos
- Kwon Jun
- Mustafic Fahrudin
- Shakir Hamzah
- Hafiz Sujad
- Jermaine Pennant
- Christopher van Huizen
- Fabian Kwok
- Shahdan Sulaiman
- Izzdin Shafiq
- Yasir Hanap
- Jordan Webb
- Saifullah Akbar
- Nawari Ahmad
- Sufian Anuar
- Fazrul Nawaz
- Billy Mehmet
A win for the Stags, coupled with a defeat for the Wasps, will result in the title going the Eastern giants’ way.
Unfortunately for V Sundramoorthy’s men, the reality proved much different.
They went a goal down inside six minutes and a man down just before half-time in their clash with Harimau Muda. On the other side, DPMM raced to a three-goal lead at the break against Balestier Khalsa.
Tampines did grab an equaliser in the second half, but it was too little too late as DPMM eventually romped to a 4-0 victory and sealed their first-ever S.League title.
The Stags’ faithful could only wonder what could have been if their side had gelled together earlier in the season.
For a club that has picked up five S.League titles and displayed some swashbuckling football in its heyday, second best simply wasn’t good enough.
Change was necessary, with new chairman Krishna Ramachandra overseeing the revolution. As if to show who is in charge, the 44-year-old lawyer ruthlessly dumped the likes of Mateo Roskam and Rodrigo Tosi despite both hitting double-figure goals.
Only five players were retained – captain Mustafic Fahrudin, Ismadi Mukhtar, Jufri Taha, Fabian Kwok and substitute keeper Joey Sim.
The shrewd Ramachandra duly raided the disbanded LionsXII for eight players, including Singapore No.1 Izwan Mahbud and former stalwarts Shahdan Sulaiman and Christopher van Huizen, as well as snagging last season’s top local scorer Fazrul Nawaz from Warriors FC.
It was already looking like an impressive squad on paper, but then came the signing of former Liverpool attacker Jermaine Pennant in a deal that shocked the whole Singapore football fraternity.
It was a real statement of intent to show that the Stags mean business this term.
No matter which way you look at it, Tampines clearly have the strongest squad amongst the nine league teams on paper right now.
Joining Pennant on the foreign players’ list are well-travelled South Korean defender Kwon Jun, who has played in Brazil, Iran and Thailand, and electric forward Jordan Webb, who shone for the Young Lions last term.
Then apart from the former LionsXII boys, there are also other handy local signings in the form of Noh Rahman and Yasir Hanapi.
To round it all off, rising starlet Saifullah Akbar has also put pen to paper. The former Singapore under-16 captain will be looking to showcase the qualities that put him on the radar of A-League club Newcastle Jets last year.
It is all looking good for now, but as Sundram has been repeatedly telling journalists, “football is played on the pitch, not on paper”.
The 2016 title is definitely Tampines’ to lose and it will be interesting to see how this star-studded squad copes with the massive levels of expectations that will be bestowed upon them.
Whether they sink or swim will depend on how ‘the Dazzler’ manages the team’s morale, given that there will be some quality players warming the bench at some point in the season.
The pressure is definitely on the Stags and it is now up to the players to do the talking on the pitch.
FFT'S S.LEAGUE PREDICTION: 1st
Counting on the services of both the best imported and local talent, Tampines just have too much quality not to win it.
KEEP CLICKING BELOW FOR OUR COMPREHENSIVE TAMPINES PREVIEW
COACH CORNER – V Sundramoorthy
With an arsenal of talent at his disposal, V Sundramoorthy wants not just to win, but to entertain. Click here to read on about how he thinks Tampines must remain grounded.
STAR MAN – Mustafic Fahrudin
The club captain watched last season as his side threw away their chance of winning the title. This term, he's ready to exorcise that memory by lifting the trophy for good.
For more about one of Tampines' key men, click here.
VIEW FROM THE FANS
This young Tampines fan is looking expectantly at the club's new season under Sundramoorthy's leadership. Find out more about his hopes here.
YOUNG GUN – Saifullah Akbar
The youngster is delighted at having the chance to train in a team laden with internationals, but is not overawed by the challenge of breaking into the starting XI next season.
Find out more about his targets for this season right here.
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