S.League Club Preview: Woodlands Wellington
What Happened Last Season?
Things were looking pretty gloomy for the Northern-based club after they had finished bottom of the pile for the past three seasons. There were even rumours of the club sitting out the 2013 S.League season but fortunately for the Rams faithful, that did not happen. The club made astute signings, bringing in experienced locals in Yazid Yasin, Shariff Abdul Samat and Rosman Sulaiman, and skilful foreigners in Atsushi Shimono and Chang Jo-Yoon. These canny additions revitalised the team as they started to play some enterprising football. Early wins over Home United and Albirex Niigata (Singapore) set the tone for a good season and they eventually finished in the top half while enjoying a good run in the Singapore Cup where they reached the last four.
Home ground: Woodlands Stadium, Singapore
Nickname: The Rams
Last Season: 5th
League Cup: Semi Finalists
Singapore Cup: First Round
Despite coach Salim’s departure to champions Tampines Rovers, there are few upheavals in the players department. Woodlands fans will be delighted to see the club holding on to the services of quality foreigners like Shimono and Moon Soon-Ho, as well as useful acquisitions in Walid Lounis, Bah Mamadou, Stefan Milojevic and Patrick Paran. Club chairman Hussainar Aziz has built on that positive vibe as he outlined his vision for the club to be the top club in the S.League within five years, as well targeting participation in the AFC Champions League in the near future.
The strong team spirit within the squad is one of the reasons why the Rams fared so well last term. Fans would have noticed the telepathic understanding between Chang and Moon upfront, with creative Shimono the key architect. Having said that, they would not have flourished without the presence of unsung heroes like Yazid, Shahril Alias and Goh Swee Swee.
The axis of Chang, Moon and Shimono is absolutely crucial in helping the Rams create space in the attacking third and score the goals. Take any of them away and they will struggle for creativity upfront. In the unfortunate case of injuries or suspensions to the trio, the other local attacking players will really have to step up their efforts.
Did You Know?
The Rams achieved their best ever finish in the league in their inaugural season in 1996, when a V. Sundramoorthy-inspired side finished runners-up in the old Tiger Beer series. Their only silverware came in 2007 where they beat Sengkang Punggol (now Hougang United) in the inaugural edition of the League Cup.
The Boss – Darren Stewart
The 47-year-old is a well-respected figure in the S.League community, having featured both as a player and a coach. After enjoying a spectacular 2013 where he guided Balestier Khalsa to lift the League Cup and finish a creditable fourth in the league, it came as a huge surprise when the Tigers did not retain his services. The former Australian international’s style of no-frills football may not excite many, but the Rams faithful can be assured that a side coached by him will be tough to beat on the pitch.
Players To Watch
- Atsushi Shimono
With superb technical ability and effective distribution of the ball, this 25-year-old Japanese is a key component in the Rams midfield. He has shown in the past season that he is equally capable of sweeping away the danger at the back as well as executing a defence-splitting pass.
- Moon Soon-Ho
Like a well-aged wine, this Korean attacker seems to have blossomed as he grows older. After toiling for a couple of seasons, 2013 saw some of his best moments in a Rams shirt as he struck 15 goals to finish joint-top scorer in the league. The club faithful will hope that he maintains the superb link-up with compatriot Chang which worked so well for them last season.
- Stefan Milojevic
After an injury-hit season with Geylang International last term, the French forward will hope to replicate the potential he shown during the second half of 2012 where he managed to revitalise the misfiring Eagles strikeforce. Blessed with good vision and a handy first touch, the 25-year-old will provide a good foil just behind the strikers.
Kenneth's 2014 S.League Prediction: 6th