S.League Club Preview: Tanjong Pagar United
What Happened Last Season?
Two successive second-from-bottom finishes were not exactly what the Jaguars had in mind on their return to the S.League, and they set about changing their fortunes in 2013. Out went Terry Pathmanathan and in came new coach Patrick Vallee, who also brought in three new French players to revitalise the squad. Coupled with the likes of seasoned campaigners like Ahmad Latiff and Sazali Salleh, the new-look Jaguars achieved some impressive opening results – thrashing Warriors FC 6-1 at Choa Chu Kang and stunning Brunei DPMM 1-0 in Bandar Seri Begawan. Talk of a shock title challenge proved to be premature though, as their form plummeted shortly after and they eventually had to settle for sixth. Tanjong Pagar did have a thrilling run in the Singapore Cup where they beat three foreign sides to enter the final, but were unable to overcome a physically superior Home United side.
TANJONG PAGAR UNITED
Home ground: Queenstown Stadium, Singapore
Nickname: The Jaguars
Last Season: 6th
League Cup: Quarter Finalists
Singapore Cup: Finalists
The core of last season’s squad is retained, including vice-captain Latiff and marquee signing Monsef Zerka. This season’s recruitment exercise sees a slightly different approach with coach Vallee going all out for experienced locals – Home’s Singapore Cup winning trio Firdaus Idros, Masrezwan Masturi and Nor Azli Yusoff join alongside former Balestier Khalsa captain Tengku Mushadad and wingback Ruzaini Zainal. French midfielder Sebastien Etiemble is the only foreign addition to the squad.
The Jaguars looks rather well-balanced this term. With the wide array of attacking talents like Zerka, Kamel Ramdani, Etiemble and Idros, they will pose a real threat going forward. Meanwhile players like Tengku, Nor Azli, Latiff and Anthony Aymard will ensure opposition players do not get past easily. Off the pitch, the club is also very well-run - with their pre-match marketing initiatives and match-day booklets proving a hit with the fans.
If the Jaguars want a better tilt at the title this term, they will have to improve on their ability to last the pace. After a blistering start to the season which saw them only losing twice in 11 games, their form soon faded away and their last seven games of the season yielded zero wins.
Did You Know?
With the likes of former Singapore internationals like Lim Tong Hai, Samawira Basri, S Subramani, Steven Tan and Lee Man Hon in their ranks, the Jaguars achieved a stunning Double in the 1998 season – lifting both the FA Cup and Singapore Cup.
The Boss – Patrick Vallee
Extending his contract to 2016 after a good debut season, the 51-year-old is not about to rest on his laurels. Having led the now-defunct Etoile FC to the 2010 S.League title, he will relish the task of transforming the Jaguars into serious title challengers. The wily Frenchman may still have his deficiencies in terms of tactical astuteness, but there is no denying that a side led by him will be full of attacking flair and prove entertaining to watch.
Players To Watch
- Monsef Zerka
Alongside Lee Kwan-Woo, the 32-year-old is one of the few players who have lived up to the ‘marquee player’ billing. This French-born Moroccan attacker not only hit 20 goals across all competitions last season, his overall hold-up play provided provided perfect foil as his fellow attackers flourish last season. Jaguars fans must be delighted to see the club retaining his services.
- Sebastien Etiemble
This 27-year-old joins the Jaguars, having worked with coach Vallee at French club AFC Compeigne previously. While opposition players could know all about Ramdani and Zerka, not many will have noticed this French attacking midfielder’s qualities as yet. Having shown glimpses of brilliance in pre-season, it will be interesting to see if he can show us more of the same in competitive matches.
- Masrezwan Masturi
Every club needs an unsung hero and for the Jaguars, it may well be this 33-year-old. Over the past couple of years at Home United, S.League fans have seen him playing almost every possible role – full-back, winger, striker or wherever you name it. His versatility is an absolute asset to a squad, not to mention the minimal fuss he goes into performing whatever tasks he is assigned.
Kenneth's 2014 S.League Prediction: 5th