S.League Club Preview: Home United
What Happened Last Season?
Home United clinched their second Singapore Cup under current head coach Lee Lim Saeng in 2013. Boasting several experienced players including star South Korean midfielder Lee Kwan Woo, the Protectors had a slow start before they gathered momentum in mid-season and embarked on a long unbeaten run.
However, that stretch of good form was not enough to overtake eventual champions Tampines Rovers and their strong start. The Protectors did just enough though to overhaul their top-half rivals and finish league runners-up. Their season culminated in a dominant Cup final display where they overwhelmed Tanjong Pagar United 4-1 to claim the trophy.
Home ground: Bishan Stadium, Singapore
Nickname: The Protectors
Last Season: 2nd
League Cup: Quarter Finalists
Singapore Cup: Champions
The core of the team has been retained while fresh young legs in Fazli Ayob, Yasir Hanapi and Izzdin Shafiq are brought in to inject pace and energy to complement the existing experience and maturity in the side. The signing of Brazilian-Japanese forward Bruno Castanheira and the return of striker Qiu Li will add more creativity and width up front, easing the playmaking burden from marquee signing Lee Kwan Woo. With depth in all departments, Home possesses the capability to tackle the dual commitments of S.League and AFC Cup football this season.
Man for man, Home possess the best talents in all departments, particularly their starting eleven which will be formidably tough to beat. Veteran goalkeeper Shahril Jantan remains a colossus between the posts, while their first choice back four is one of the strongest defensive partnerships in the league.
The Protectors' high-intensity pressing game has made them one of the most feared teams as they are willing to press from the front the moment possession is lost. The superior technical skills of their new faces will give them an extra edge this season.
Home United have developed a reputation for peaking from mid-season on after traditionally slow starts. Another similar start to the season might derail their hopes of a first championship since 2003.
For all their potential, the squad will to raise their level of consistency. There is a tendency to tail off against lower opposition, a trait which has at times cost them dear in previous seasons due to needless points dropped.
Did you know?
Home United are the only Singapore side to overcome Middle East opposition in Asian club competition as they beat Olympic Beirut of Lebanon in the 2004 AFC Cup quarter-finals to advance into the last four.
The Boss – Lee Lim Saeng
The 42-year-old South Korean is the longest serving Home United head coach in the club’s S.League history. He has built the tactical foundations of the current side around a strong work ethic and high level of discipline.
Having played at the highest level in the World Cup and learnt the ropes under South Korean legend Cha Bum Kun, the former international defender has worked tirelessly to raise local standards to another level.
With two Singapore Cups and a Coach of the Year accolade under his belt, the former Suwon Bluewings assistant coach now has his first team moulded in his image and will be looking to finally secure his first league title in five attempts.
Players to Watch
- Lee Kwan Woo
When the 35-year-old South Korean playmaker is on song, he is virtually impossible to surpass in this league. The reigning Player of the Year was a success story of 2013 with his playmaking and audacity for long-range shots.
His biggest contribution has come from set plays where he whips the ball in with his trusty right foot to devastating effect, as Tanjong Pagar found out to their cost last season in the Cup final. Having trained with former club Suwon in the close season, he has come back more determined to create a bigger impact in the Protectors’ domestic and Asian challenges this year.
- Bruno Castanheira
Signed from Albirex Niigata (Singapore), the 23-year-old forward possesses the flair expected in a Brazilian player while keeping the Japanese trait of a high work ethic. With mazy dribbling skills and nifty footwork to match, he is expected to play with greater freedom at Home as he storms down from either flank.
Bruno's high stamina and willingness to track back to regain possession will be valuable qualities, particularly when Home are up against tough, uncompromising opponents this season.
- Shahril Jantan
The 33-year-old custodian is still one of the best in his line despite his advancing years. Commanding in his own area, he has kept a high level of fitness and remains capable of acrobatic saves to keep his side in contention.
His previous experience in the AFC Champions League with Warriors FC will be valuable as Home return to AFC Cup competition and will be looking to advance beyond the round of 16 this time.
Gary’s 2014 S.League Prediction: 1st