The young gun – Sufianto Salleh, Home United
In terms of blooding youth, Home were a resounding success in 2015 with budding talents like R Aaravin, Shahrin Saberin and Sufianto all given decent run-outs in the team.
Sufianto in particular caught the eye with his energy down the left channel and ability to whip in dangerous crosses into the box.
He ended the year with 16 appearances in all competitions, scoring one goal and making two assists.
That goal was the 22-year-old’s maiden strike in the S.League and came in a 2-0 league win against title-chasing Balestier Khalsa in October.
Striding forward from his left-back position to meet Azhar Sairudin’s through ball, Sufianto lashed it high past opposition keeper Zaiful Nizam from a tight angle.
“I wasn’t expecting a goal that early in the game,” he told FourFourTwo. “It was just barely a minute into the game and I just simply ran down the left flank to give more support.
“Then all of a sudden, I got my opportunity so I just took the shot. It went in perfectly and that was definitely one of the best moments of my career.”
That strike exemplified Sufianto’s development over the past year. Prior to that, the gifted left-footer had spent several years with the National Football Academy and the Young Lions – making just a few cameo appearances.
I think I’ve matured a lot and become a much better player since joining Home.
“I think I’ve matured a lot and become a much better player since joining Home,” he reflected.
“Training with all the senior players at this club has really helped me and I’ve gained more experience from them in terms of how to play at a higher level.
“(Aw) has a lot of belief in me and that gave me a lot of confidence. Now I’m settled playing at left-back because I have the strength to run down the flanks and give the strikers a cross to finish.”
After such a promising first season with the Protectors, Sufianto is hoping that he gets more playing time under his belt – now that he has completed the mandatory two years of National Service (NS).
“Last season, it was a bit difficult for me because of NS training,” he reflected. “It was very shag (slang for ‘tiring’) to juggle NS and football.
“This season I’m finally playing football full-time so I’m definitely looking forward. Looking at the make-up of the squad, I feel very confident of playing with them as a team.
“Of course I want to play in the first team, but it all depends on what coach Philippe wants and where he wants to put me. I’ll just do my best and give whatever I can for the team.”
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Photo: Home United