Geylang International head coach Jorg Steinebrunner is not ruling out a possible title challenge after assembling a competitive squad in the off-season.
It has been 14 long years since the Eagles last lifted the S.League trophy, with things particularly difficult in recent times and having finished out of the top half for four successive seasons.
After losing the first three games last season, Steinebrunner succeeded Kanan Vedhamuthu in the Geylang hot seat and managed to push them to a decent eighth-placed finish.
Season 2015 marks the German’s first full season in charge and he has made massive moves in the off-season transfer window.
Out went the likes of Joey Sim, Fabian Kwok, Aliff Shafaein and the Argentine legion of Leonel Felice, Franco Chivilo and Joaquin Lopez.
In came a total of seven new local players with the notable ones being S.League ever-present Yazid Yasin, former Tanjong Pagar United defender Hafiz Osman, athletic full-back Syed Thaha, as well as three new foreign signings in Tatsuro Inui, Bruno Castanheira and Jozef Kaplan.
With such an eye-catching squad assembled for the new campaign, much of the pre-season talk has been centred around Geylang possibly having a tilt at the title.
Speaking at the team’s pre-season press conference which was held at the NTUC Club at Downtown East on Saturday night where local sports brand Dreamatron was unveiled as the apparel sponsor for the upcoming season, Steinebrunner acknowledged that his new-look side do have the potential to achieve this feat.
“You’re not wrong by saying we’re dark horses,” he said.
“It’s nice that people have recognized our work in the transfer market. The foreigners whom we have brought in are established players who have played in the S.League for a number of years; they’re acclimatized and already have the local mentality. Also they’re young and still can develop – look at Jozef, he’s only 28 and the other foreigners are around 24 to 25."
“The local players which we brought in like Nor Azli (Yusoff) and Anaz (Hadee) have played at the AFC level before. Looking at the squad including the players we have kept, definitely, I can say it’s of higher quality than last year. So far, we’ve been playing exciting and entertaining football."
“At the end of the day, we need to recognize there are the likes of Warriors FC and Tampines (Rovers). But if consistency is on our side, who knows?”
The Eagles have been notching up impressive results in pre-season – thrashing the Singapore Pre-Olympic Selection Team 4-1, clinching the Kata Group Hotel Challenge Cup by beating Phuket FC 5-2 over two legs, as well as holding champions Warriors FC to a 2-2 draw.
Steinebrunner has attributed that to the newly-improved team ethic – something he has been impressed with thus far and hopes it can continue throughout the season.
“We brought in the new players not just based on their footballing qualities, but also their character,” emphasized the 43-year-old.
“You look at players like Nor Azli and Jozef, they’re not only just good footballers, but they’re also very team-oriented people. There’s togetherness and good team dynamics this year – the way they work and live together has been amazing so far. Hopefully we can keep this going."
“Every football team goes through a spell where results are not so good. I think if we have such a bad spell, these good dynamics can bring us out of it.”
Geylang International 2015 squad
Yazid Yasin, Farhan Amin, Hairul Syirhan Mardan
Yuki Ichikawa, Sevki Sha’ban, Kento Fukuda, Anaz Hadee, Hafiz Osman, Syed Thaha, Khairulnizam Jumahat
Hafiz Nor, Mustaqim Manzur, Tatsuro Inui, Nor Azli Yusoff, Shah Hirul, Huzaifah Aziz
Bruno Castanheira, Jozef Kaplan, Shawal Anwar
Photo by: GIFC/ Jude Tan