S.League Club Preview: Warriors FC
What Happened Last Season?
If 2012 was horrendous by the Warriors' proud standards as they finished in their then-lowest league finish of fifth, 2013 would prove a nadir as the Warriors collapsed on both domestic and continental fronts. They got off to their worst start ever in the league and things were little better in their second-tier AFC Cup campaign as their woes continued. The early high of star signing Kazuyuki Toda as their marquee player faded quickly, and the Japanese World Cup player retired after a nondescript campaign.
A succession of poor results eventually forced the resignation of ex-assistant coach V. Selvaraj in June, with former Hougang United coach Alex Weaver taking over for the remainder of the season. While results picked up under the Englishman’s charge, it was too little too late as they found themselves in the bottom half at the end of the campaign.
Home ground: Choa Chu Kang Stadium
Nickname: The Warriors
Last Season: 7th place
League Cup: Plate Semi-finalists
Singapore Cup: First Round
There has been an overhaul in playing staff this campaign, with the Warriors looking to inject fresh faces and reignite the spark that once made the club a force to be feared in the S.League. Out went the Japanese contingent from 2013 as new faces from Europe and South America were roped in. The introductions of seasoned locals Hafiz Rahim and Irwan Shah also add depth and versatility in the squad. It remains to be seen whether Weaver can nurture the team's potential and mould them into an effective unit as they begin their recovery with a push towards the top half of the league.
Experience abounds in all departments of the side, from goalkeepers to forwards. Collectively, the likes of skipper Daniel Bennett, Hassan Sunny and Shi Jiayi have the guile and know-how to take on the best in the league as equals on their day. The inclusion of experienced imports in Thomas Beattie and Kevin McCann provide more depth alongside the local veterans in the squad.
Team unity will be crucial if Warriors are to harbor realistic hopes of finishing in the top half of the league. It was subtle moments of team unrest that undid Selvaraj last season and having borne the brunt of such uncomfortable experiences at Hougang United, Weaver will do well to keep the different factions in the Warriors’ set-up onside if he is to last beyond May at Choa Chu Kang.
Did you know?
Under the former guise of Singapore Armed Forces FC, the Warriors are the sole club from Singapore to have participated in the AFC Champions League. They crashed out at the group stage in 2009 and 2010, having come through the playoffs on both occasions under former head coach Richard Bok.
The Boss – Alex Weaver
The 37-year-old Englishman came into his first senior coaching job in Singapore last year with Hougang United, having previously done youth coaching in England and the United States. Having had initial success with the Cheetahs, he left after a run of poor results. With the Warriors, he has managed to forge espirit de corps from the ruins of V. Selvaraj’s brief reign and led them to a mid-table finish. Whether his coaching methods are well received in Choa Chu Kang remains to be fully seen as he looks to complete a full season with his current employers.
Players to Watch
- Zulfadli Zainal Abidin
Equally adept at left back or in left midfield, the 25-year-old is a tireless worker down the flank. His high work-rate and sound control of the ball make him a valuable asset in his second stint at the Warriors as his strong performances earned him regular national team call-ups under Bernd Stange. His ability could lift the Warriors’ defence this season.
- Hassan Sunny
An international since the age of 19, the 29-year-old custodian is one of the safest pair of hands in the league. His stout frame and agility make him stand out between the posts, although his confidence has taken a hit in recent seasons due to the fraility in the Warriors’ backline. On his day, he is simply unbeatable and could single-handedly be the difference between top-half success and mid-table mediocrity.
- Kevin McCann
A former Scottish youth international, the 26-year-old comes with vast experience through the various tiers in the Scottish league system. Comfortable in defence and midfield, he is expected to play a key role in either department as the Warriors bid to plug the gaps and protect their ageing legs in the squad.
Gary’s 2014 S.League Prediction: 7th