2015 S.League Club Preview: Tampines Rovers
What happened in 2014?
2014 was a year everyone associated with the club would rather forget. The failure to mount a meaningful challenge saw their title defence virtually extinguished even though they were mathematically in the running until the split round.
The task of guiding some of the best local players in the league proved to be too much for Salim Moin, who resigned following a poor run of mid-season form that also saw the Stags eliminated from the AFC Cup group stage for the third successive season.
While his successor Rafi Ali brought out the best in Shahdan Sulaiman and Ismadi Mukhtar after his mid-term appointment, his failure to eke out consistent performances from the team also saw him eventually making way for present coach V. Sundramoorthy.
Only six first team players have been retained as chairman Teo Hock Seng and Sundram wasted no time acquiring experienced locals in Ismail Yunos, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin and Firdaus Idros, while revamping the entire foreign roster with known quality from across the border.
Without any distractions from Asia, the path is clear for Tampines to focus on the domestic competitions. The formidable depth Tampines have include veteran strikers Indra Sahdan Daud and Noh Alam Shah, providing Sundram with tactical options to deploy at various points in the season.
Wresting the league championship back will be the main priority for the five-time winners after their tame surrender last year, with possibly another cup to show the club are not about to fade into mediocrity after a blip in 2014.
The Gaffer – V. Sundramoorthy
The 49-year-old has extensive experience coaching clubs with varying degrees of pedigree and has demonstrated great flexibility in his tactical options while using the players he has at his disposal.
From moulding a rag-team group of veterans, has-beens and raw diamonds into an entertaining unit at Jurong FC, to guiding unheralded LionsXII to the Malaysia Super League title with a disciplined game plan, the Dazzler has done it all.
He faces his biggest coaching challenge in his first S.League gig since 2010 as he has to get the best out of some of the most established names in the local football fraternity in their pursuit for the title.
Ability and experience – Tampines have it in abundance in all departments. With several present and former Singapore international in their books, they have the strongest squad among all the local clubs this season.
Sundram’s ability to bring out the best in those under his charge could be repaid with one of the most consistent showings – a trait not seen in the club since the days of Sead Muratovic, Mirko Grabovac and Nazri Nasir in the mid-2000s.
No matter how formidable a team looks on paper, there is always a weakness. In Tampines’ case, the goalkeeping department remains a problem.
Fadhil Salim's loan deal has yet to be sorted, with the Football Association of Singapore investigation still under way.
While Joey Sim and Siddiq Durimi are decent goalkeepers, there is still doubt over whether they can live up to the demands at this big club.
Players to Watch
- Fahrudin Mustafic
Possessing a reliable engine, the 33-year-old club skipper has spent recent seasons playing at the back rather than in his favoured defensive midfield role.
With the signings of Ismail Yunos, Eddy Viator and Predrag Pocuca in central defence, the former Singapore international is free to return to what he does best – screening the back four and breaking up attacks before they reach the final third.
- Shaiful Esah
A mainstay for both club and country, the 28-year-old full-back is also the club’s main set-piece specialist after Shahdan Sulaiman's departure to LionsXII.
His ability to deliver pinpoint crosses from open play and dead balls with his trusted left foot makes him a valuable weapon in the team’s attacking plans.
- Mateo Roskam
A tall, powerful centre forward, the 27-year-old Croatian is no stranger to the region, having been involved with Malaysia Super League outfit Sime Darby last season.
His physical presence places him in a good position to hold up the ball in the final third, where he can bring his teammates into play or unleash a powerful shot from distance.
Gary's 2015 S.League Prediction: Champions
On paper, Tampines are the strongest candidates for the championship. Sundram can complete a unique Singapore and Malaysia domestic title double if he is able to bring out the best in the seasoned professionals he has at his disposal.