Albirex relying on experience in title hunt

Albirex Niigata (Singapore) coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama believes the influx of experienced players can help the team to achieve their dream of being S.League champions.

After a season that saw them came close to lifting the championship, the White Swans are now hungrier than ever in their quest to claim the title.

Speaking at their Sponsors’ Party cum Season Launch at the Jalan Besar Stadium VIP lounge last night, Albirex chairman Daisuke Korenaga declared that the team is targeting the S.League trophy for the upcoming 2015 season.

To aid their title push, the White Swans have opted to go with experience – signing former J.League players Fumiya Kogure and Yosuke Nozawa, as well as bringing back former fans’ favourite Shotaro Ihata.

Head coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama believes his new-look side are better equipped to challenge for the title than last year.

“Last year, we had many players who were playing professionally for the first time,” he told FourFourTwo.

“My job was more to mould them into a competitive team to compete in the league, whereas this year we have a few more experienced players with more technical movement in this team, thus we’re looking to push for the title.”

Experienced custodian Nowaza, who has played for parent club Albirex and Shonan Bellmare in the Japanese top flight, is setting high personal goals for this season.

“My aim is not only to be the first-choice goalkeeper for Albirex, but also to be the best goalkeeper in the S.League,” declared the 35-year-old, who is also the oldest member of the squad.

Meanwhile midfielder Kogure hopes to utilize his top-class playing experience to guide the younger players in the squad.

“I hope to share my experience of playing in the J.League with my new teammates and guide them along,” said the 25-year-old, who featured in the J.League with Albirex from 2008 to 2012.

“So far there’s not much pressure on me. I’m enjoying my football right now and I look forward to contribute to this team.”

The former Japan Under-19 international also believes he and his teammates will need to adapt to the physicality of the S.League.

“Although the level of the league here is not as strong as the J.League, the tackling is strong and tough,” he said.

“In Japan, the emphasis was more on each team’s tactics and formations while it’s more of a player versus player battle over here.”

The White Swans will kick off their 2015 S.League campaign next Monday with a home game against Tampines.

Photo: Amirul Asyraf/Football Association of Singapore