Shahdan out to prove his worth

Having been excluded from the Singapore national team squad for the World Cup qualifiers last week, LionsXII midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman is eager to show his credentials against JDT II on Saturday night.

The midfielder has been working hard to brush up on his skills after weeks of non-competitive action and was striking balls into the top corner of the net at LionsXII training on Wednesday evening.

Many feared for Shahdan’s career when he suffered a horrific ankle injury during last year’s AFF Suzuki Cup, but the 27-year-old worked his way back to full fitness within six months and got back into the national team fold when they played Qatar and Syria in September.

That joy proved to be short-lived though as he was left out of the squad that faced off against Afghanistan and Cambodia recently.

Shahdan is keen to put that disappointment behind him and raring to go as Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) come visiting this weekend in a vital Malaysia Cup Group A clash.

“Of course I’m looking forward to this game and get back into competitive mode,” he told FourFourTwo.

“Honestly it’s a disappointment as everyone wants to be in the national team, but I understand the coach’s priorities and I have to move on from there.

“I want to get back in, but first of all I have to fight for a place in the first eleven of the LionsXII – that’s the most important thing for me now.”

The midfielder kicked off the Malaysia Cup in fine fashion by earning a start against Kedah FA and scoring the equaliser in the 1-1 home draw, but has since only managed one appearance off the bench.

Irregular game time has affected the former Tampines Rovers man as he readily admitted he is still some way off the form which made him widely known as one of the most gifted local midfielders of his generation.

“I’m definitely not back to where I was yet,” said Shahdan, who has been capped by the country 42 times. “Maybe it’s due to the lack of matches, that’s why I’m quite rusty especially in the area of decision-making.

“It’s been quite tough for me; playing one game, then sitting on the bench for the next two to three games, before being given a chance again.

“On my side, what I can do is just to take every opportunity to go onto the field and impress the coach enough to put me in for the next game.

With the majority of the LionsXII players jaded after their exertions for the national team, a fresh and hungry Shahdan could well be the trump card for coach Fandi Ahmad against JDT II.

The coach was served a timely reminder of Shahdan's ability as he scored two goals in a 3-2 win against the Courts Young Lions earlier this week in a friendly.

“It doesn’t matter if I play in midfield or upfront, as long as I get to play,” Shahdan said.

“I’ve been working really hard in training to get back my sharpness in, so hopefully it reflects during the match.

“JDT II won’t be easy to play against. We played them away and they was quite a disciplined side – tough to break down and dangerous on the counter.

“We have to focus for this important match at home and hopefully we get all three points.”