FFT’s 2017 S.League Preview: Garena Young Lions

The youngest team in the S.League just got even younger after selecting only under-22 players for the 2017 season. Can they hold their own against the big boys, or will they get thumped in every game? This is FFT's preview of the Garena Young Lions...

Team summary

Having fielded their youngest-ever squad in the S.League, they are widely expected to struggle in 2016 so it was not a surprise that they finished bottom.

However, there is the niggling feeling that they could have done much better than just amassing nine points from a possible 72.

That was their worst-ever points tally since entering the S.League in 2003 and they had the ignominy of being the first team in the league’s history to be fined S$50,000 for not collecting 20 percent of the maximum number of points available for the season.

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It will be a mainly under-22 side for the Young Lions

Things are surely not going to get easier this coming season, with over-aged players Khairul Amri, Firdaus Kasman and Fareez Farhan released to make way for a solely under-22 squad in preparation for August’s Southeast (SEA) Games.

The hope is that that armed with a season’s experience in the harsh top-flight, players like Rusyaidi Salime, Dhukhilan Jeevamani and Hami Syahin have matured a little and be able to guide those rookies that are coming into the side.

On the incoming transfers’ front, they are understandably rather quiet with only Home United defender Shahrin Saberin, Warriors FC midfielder Hafiz Sulaiman and Geylang International’s back-up goalkeeper Hairul Syirhan joining.

It does look like the Young Lions have it all to do to escape being wooden spoonists again…

Key signing(s):

Shahrin Saberin (Home United), Hafiz Sulaiman (Warriors FC)

Key departure(s):

Fareez Farhan (Hougang United), Adam Swandi (Home United), Khairul Amri (Tampines Rovers)

Coach summary: V.Selvaraj

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The Young Lions will have a fourth coach in three years

V Selvaraj takes over at the helm, with Frenchman Patrick Hesse resigning at the end of last season despite previously signing a two-year deal.

This is the former national player’s second time in charge of an S.League outfit, having taken charge of Warriors FC for half a season in 2013. He will hope to do better this time round, having resigned prematurely that year after a series of poor performances from his side.

Having worked as Hesse’s assistant last season, he should know his squad rather well and should use that familiarity to his advantage…

Player to watch: Ryan Syaffiq

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Syaffiq has the potential to be a great winger for Singapore. Photo: FAS

The Young Lions have lost a number of attacking players, but at least they can still count on an emerging talent in Syaffiq.

The 20-year-old was a virtual unknown at the start of last season, but managed to force himself into the starting eleven after a series of plucky displays upfront – eventually scoring his first professional goal in the final game of the season against Tampines Rovers.

He makes up for a lack of size with great determination to chase down lost causes and courage to run at bigger defenders.

Expectations: To finish among the bottom two clubs

It would not be a surprise to see the developmental squad finishing bottom again, but at the very least, they will need to produce much better performances and put up better fights against the league’s big boys.

The bare minimum for them is to attain more points than last season’s miserable single-digit tally.

Photos: Balestier Khalsa (unless stated otherwise)