FFT’s 2016 S.League Awards
S.League Young Player of the Year nominees:
Naofumi Tanaka (Albirex Niigata (S))
M.Anumanthan (Hougang United) - WINNER
Shahrin Saberin (Home United)
Song Ui-Young (Home United)
FFT’s Young Player of the Year: Naofumi Tanaka (Albirex Niigata (S))
It was Hougang’s Anu who took home the gong, becoming the first local since Hariss Harun — in 2010 with Young Lions — to do so.
Honestly, it would have been a tough fight between Anu and Naofumi Tanaka, but for FourFourTwo writers, our vote would have gone to the latter for his sheer consistency for the White Swans.
The 23-year-old had a torrid start to his professional debut, scoring an own goal. But he has grown from strength to strength then and it is no stretch to say he was the league’s best left-back.
Adept at providing overlapping runs and crosses into the box, Tanaka is also pretty accurate from anywhere within the danger area.
But he never neglects his defensive duties and be found hounding back to his defence, should his side lose the ball.
Hence, FourFourTwo’s Young Player of the Year would have been Naofumi Tanaka.
Special mention: M.Anumanthan (Hougang United)
It was Anu who took home the S.League’s Young Player of the Year award and he is certainly a worthy candidate.
The midfielder has improved leaps and bounds this season, cutting out the silly mistakes that young players are so prone to making, while becoming a midfield general for Hougang United.
If Anu was more effective going forward, he would have easily been our choice for FFT’s Young Player of the Year award. However, Anu did not have any goals or assists this whole season. In contrast, Tanaka scored three goals and made five assists despite playing in a defensive position.
The 22-year-old himself acknowledged that he still has room for improvement, and FFT is eager to see how he develops over the next few years after what we have seen this season.
Special mention: Shahrin Saberin (Home United)
Only 21, Shahrin has put in fine displays which belies his tender age for Home this season.
He has slotted into defence alongside Singapore international Abdil Qaiyyim with ease and is not one to shrug away from a challenge, no matter how hard the going is.
The centre-back has made a few mistakes this season but more often than not, he is rather solid in defence and can be one to look out for in the future.
If Shahrin continues his development at this rate, he might not only pick up the Young Player of the Year honours next year, but also join his senior Abdil in making the national team.
Special mention: Iqbal Hussain (Hougang United)
Iqbal began the season slowly and could not force his way into Hougang coach K. Balagumaran’s plans, not until the League Cup started and he was given a chance to make an impact.
That he did, and more as Iqbal also caught the eye of the national selectors and was drafted into the national team in October.
Iqbal scored a few spectacular goals this season and finished with a decent return of six goals and eight assists.
While Home's Song Ui-Young is definitely good enough to be shortlisted, we felt Iqbal had more of impact than Song did, whenever he played.