Early Fandi comparison shocked me - Khairul Nizam
Nizam shot to early prominence with his goalscoring exploits with the Home United Under-16 and Under-17 teams, before joining Courts Young Lions in 2009 and subsequently the LionsXII in 2012.
However, injuries seriously curtailed the once-promising talent’s development, with the forward admitting that the burden of being tagged Fandi’s successor had been too much to deal with at that point.
“It was a shock for me to be called the next Fandi and I did not expect things to progress so fast back then,” Nizam told FourFourTwo after his side’s training session at Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday.
“Till now, I’m still very far away from his standards and his achievements.”
Now back in the S.League when it was announced that the LionsXII would sit out Malaysian competitions from 2016 onwards, it had been an easy decision for the 24-year-old to rejoin the team where it all started for him.
“Home was always the first option for me, so I was really happy when coach Philippe called me to join the team,” he added.
“I actually played under him and coach Hairil Amin during my time here, so it’s a really good feeling. We understand each other so it’s easier for me in terms of settling down back at the club.
Besides the appeal of teaming up with Aw again, Nizam was wooed by the attractive brand of football and the emphasis on youth development which Home have been trying to implement.
Apart from club captain Juma’at Jantan, the rest of Home's 2016 squad is under the age of 30, with Fandi’s sons, Irfan and Ikhsan, also tied to the Bishan club.
“The key motivation for me to join this club is that I wanted to achieve something here and improve myself,” he noted.
“Coach Philippe focuses on a European-style passing football, which is something I like and something which we should always strive to achieve.
“We have many young and talented players here, so I’m looking forward to this coming season and hopefully we’ll be able to give (title favourites) a good fight.
Serious injuries have plagued Nizam’s professional career so far, with an anterior cruciate ligament and two meniscus tears in his right knee limiting him to playing just 20 matches between 2012 to 2014.
The 2015 season nevertheless went fine for the forward as he managed to feature in 21 games in all competitions for the LionsXII, scoring five goals in the process including a spectacular overhead kick in a league clash against Selangor that saw him earn worldwide recognition.
The rejuvenated Nizam is hoping for more of the same as he looks set to pair up with former Bundesliga forward Ken Ilso in Home’s pursuit for their first S.League title since 2003.
“Of course I want the year to go smoothly again, hopefully hitting double figures,” stated the forward, who was part of the LionsXII’s 2013 Malaysia Super League and 2015 Malaysia FA Cup-winning squads.
“My knee is okay now and I’m happy that Home has a good medical team here to help me, just like at FAS (Football Association of Singapore).
“If can, we’re aiming to win all the titles but it’s going to be tough. Ken has just returned to training, so it’ll take some time for us to figure out each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
With the AFF Suzuki Cup looming this year, Nizam – who has not been called up by Singapore since last September – is out to prove that he is worthy of a recall.
“If I really want it, I have to work hard and show that I’m capable of representing the nation,” he concluded. “The key is to not to give up and fight for my first-team position at Home.”