FFT’s 2017 S.League Preview: Warriors FC
The less said, the better for Warriors FC in 2016. For a club that is so accustomed to being at the top, it must have felt humiliating to finish third from bottom - 22 points off eventual champions Albirex Niigata (S).
A new season, however, brings renewed hope and optimism, as the Warriors management swooped to bring in a number of experienced campaigners.
Headlining their incoming transfers will be national team centurions Baihakki Khaizan and Shahril Ishak, but there are other handy local acquisitions like Ho Wai Loon, Firdaus Kasman and Fadhil Noh.
Top scorer Jonathan Behe has gone to Malaysia Premier League side Sabah FA, but he is adequately replaced by Canadian forward Jordan Webb – who scored 12 goals for Tampines Rovers last season.
With Baihakki and Shahril joining incumbents like Hafiz Osman, Shaiful Esah and Ridhuan Muhammad, there are several former Suzuki Cup winners in their ranks so they are certainly not lacking in terms of experience.
Baihakki Khaizan, Shahril Ishak (Johor Darul Ta’zim II), Jordan Webb (Tampines Rovers)
Madhu Mohana (Tampines Rovers), Nikola Rak (Released), Jonathan Behe (Sabah FA)
Coach summary: Razif Onn
Despite missing out on their top-three target in 2016, Razif Onn has been retained as head honcho for this campaign. The pressure is on the 63-year-old, who has been with the club since 1999, to deliver in his first full season.
The affable coach will need to find a way to manage the egos in the dressing room and find the right formula for a massively talented squad. Results have not exactly gone his way in pre-season, thus he will have to buck that trend when the competitive games come along.
Player to watch: Jordan Webb
While the focus has been on the signing of Baihakki and Shahril, it is a low-key acquisition that may well prove to be their trump card.
The 28-year-old Webb has been a consistent performer in the S.League over the last five and a half seasons, scoring regularly for Hougang United, Home United, Garena Young Lions and Tampines.
It will be interesting to see how this effervescent forward links up with his fellow attackers like Shahril, Ridhuan and Fadhil, as the Warriors seek to improve their goal-scoring record.
Expectations: At least a top three finish
With shrewd acquisitions and a much stronger squad, the Warriors are expected to make a serious bid for the title. Finishing anywhere out of the top three will be a massive disappointment for this club in 2017.