S.League Club Preview: Courts Young Lions
What Happened Last Season?
It was always going to be a difficult task for the Football Association of Singapore’s (FAS) developmental team in 2013 after a number of key players was ‘pushed up’ into the LionsXII squad with one eye on the year-end Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. True enough, what was basically an Under-23 squad filled largely with Under-21 players struggled initially as they failed to collect any points in their first 12 league games. Credit to them, their performances picked up in the second half of the season as they duly ended the season with three straight wins. Key players like Sahil Suhaimi and Afiq Yunos went on to shine for the national Under-23 side which picked up a bronze medal at the Games in Myanmar last December.
Courts Young Lions
Home Ground: Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore
Nickname: Young Lions
Last Season: 12th Place
League Cup: Plate Finalists
Singapore Cup: Did not take part
The bulk of last season’s squad is retained, bar Afiq and a few others who have moved to bolster Fandi Ahmad’s LionsXII side. With a year of league experience under their belt, Sahil and the rest of the lads should be more equipped to face the challenges of this campaign. Adding the effervescent Jordan Webb to their ranks means Sherif El-Masri will find joy linking up with his compatriot in the final third. Eyes will also be on seven new boys who were involved with the Under-15s’ thrilling campaign in the Youth Olympic Games in 2010 and their continual development.
Technically not the most gifted of teams, the Young Lions more than make up for it with their superior fitness levels and fearless attitude going into matches. Also they will be able to call on the services of the players from the national Under-17 to Under-19 squads, in case their numbers dwindle during the course of the season.
The lack of an experienced old head in the team could prove to be the difference as the season goes along. Amongst the boys, only Sahil has featured regularly for the national Under-23s at the SEA Games last year.
Did You Know?
The Young Lions got their best-ever finishes in 2004 and 2006 – finishing third in both years, under then-head coach Fandi Ahmad. Players like Khairul Amri, Isa Halim, Baihakki Khaizan matured under the gaze of the national legend as they progressed to become regulars in the national team.
The Boss - Aide Iskandar
Still only 38 years of age, the former national captain’s coaching career is still at a very early stage. His stock is beginning to rise after leading the Under-23s to a bronze medal finish at the SEA Games. A no-nonsense centre-back with 121 national caps to his name, he has translated that gritty attitude to his boys. A typical Aide team will give you a physically tough 90 minutes.
Players to Watch
- Sahil Suhaimi
The 21-year-old was one of the brightest stars at the SEA Games last December, notching three goals to become the tournament’s joint top-scorer along with five other players. Leading the line well despite his 1.63m frame, the vice-captain is expected to shoulder more responsibility in terms of finding the back of the net in this upcoming season.
- Jordan Webb
The 25-year-old’s game has arguably matured under Korean coach Lee Lim Saeng at Home United last season. Considering the lack of creativity in the attacking third last season, the Canadian forward's ability to unlock defences will add a whole new dimension to the Young Lions strikeforce.
- Iqbal Hamid Hussain
Capable of both playing on the wings and leading the line, the 20-year-old’s attacking qualities is highly regarded by coach Aide. It will be intriguing to see if his game matures this term, with the support of fellow attackers like Sahil, Webb and El-Masri.
Kenneth's 2014 S.League Prediction: 8th