S.League Club Preview: Geylang International
What Happened Last Season?
2013 promised to be a new dawn for the Eagles with a switch back to their beloved ‘Geylang International’ name and club chairman Leong Kok Fann was aiming for an ambitious top-six finish. However, a 5-0 thrashing by neighbours Tampines Rovers on their opening day signalled a tough start as they picked up only two wins in the first nine matches. Coach Kanan Vedhamuthu’s emphasis on youth did not have the desired impact as the inexperienced squad struggled throughout the season, eventually settling for ninth position.
Home ground: Bedok Stadium, Singapore
Nickname: The Eagles
Last Season: 9th
League Cup: First Round
Singapore Cup: Quarter Finalists
After an uninspiring season, Geylang retained only six players and brought in a total of 11 new faces. Top scorer Jozef Kaplan and defender Norihiro Kawakami have left for greener pastures, with coach Kanan opting for an Argentinian Revolution – bringing in young assistant coach Nazareno Velez, as well as three players in Joaquin Lopez, Franco Chivilo and Leonel Felice. On the locals’ front, they have added much more experience to their side this term – with the likes of Aliff Shafaein, Mustaqim Manzur, Hamqaamal Shah and K. Sathiaraj having years of S.League experience under their belt.
The presence of experienced campaigners could help young players like Fabian Kwok, Wyldan Wisam and Khairulnizam Jumahat in their further development, as well as giving the team more grit on the pitch.
Question marks remain on whether this Eagles squad will have the strength in depth to challenge for a top-six finish. However impressive their CVs might be, the new Argentinian trio are still unproven at this level and problems could surface if they fail to acclimatise to this country. While the new local additions boast added experience, a number of them will have to show they still have the ability to turn on the style.
Did You Know?
The Eagles, under their former incarnation as Geylang United, picked up the S.League title in their inaugural season back in 1996. The star-studded squad, boasting of the likes of Iranian World Cup players Hamid Reza Estili and Mohammad Khakpour, Singapore internationals Fandi Ahmad, Kadir Yahaya and David Lee thrilled many neutrals that year. They have since picked up only a solitary title (in 2001).
The Boss – Kanan Vedhamuthu
The 51-year-old’s name is synonymous with the Eagles ever since the turn of the millennium. Rising through the ranks to his current position as S.League coach, Kanan knows the club’s step-up very well and is a strong believer in youth development. Taking over from predecessor Mike Wong in early 2012, this is only going to be his second full season in charge of the side.
Players To Watch
- Leonel Felice
The 30-year-old will step straight into former captain Kaplan’s void as the Eagles strive to improve from their poor goalscoring record in 2013. Not much is known about Felice, except that he plied his trade with Vietnam’s Hanoi T&T previously. With a handy 1.85m frame, he will be the main focal point of the Eagles’ attack.
- Ridhuan Muhammad
The former Singapore international is back after years of playing in Indonesia. Now at 29 years of age, Ridhuan has adapted his game from a roving winger to an attacking midfielder lying just behind the forward. Set to take over the captain’s armband, he will have to show he has the ability to influence matters on and off the pitch.
- Hafiz Nor
It was quite a surprise when former club Tanjong Pagar United declined to retain his services after a much productive season. The talented 25-year-old will provide some much-needed width to this Geylang side, and the Eagles fans can expect to the net to bulge if opponents do not close him down from range.
Kenneth's 2014 S.League Prediction: 12th