By all accounts, the Courts Young Lions (CYL) had a poor season in the S.League last year. Rooted at the bottom of the table, they registered only five wins throughout the entire campaign.
However, they still managed to end the season strongly and recently went through a rigorous month-long training camp in Turkey to prepare for the upcoming campaign.
According to CYL midfielder Shamil Sharif, the team is in better shape as compared to last season and they are eager to give a better account of themselves this year.
“I think as compared to other seasons, this season we had better preparation because we went abroad,” he said.
“We played good teams, the training was good and everybody is working hard. You can see that a lot of effort is being put in this time round and we have a winning mentality. We want to win. We want to prove something this year [and show that] we are no pushovers.”
The 21-year-old also revealed the importance of the Turkey trip, especially in terms of team bonding.
“The new season means you have new players like Jordan [Webb] and some of the Under-18 boys [coming into the squad],” Shamil explained.
“For us to actually get together for a whole month, a lot of things can be done. Our friendship on and off the pitch has improved and we can understand each other better."
Meanwhile, head coach Aide Iskandar has praised the influence of foreign duo Webb and Sherif El Masri on the team. Despite the majority of the team being groomed to be part of the SEA Games team in 2015, he believes their presence will help improve the other players.
“[Jordan and Sherif] will add competitiveness to the team and these young players will have the opportunity to learn from the two players,” he said.
“It’s a long season and it will be a good opportunity for the players to step up once they’re given an opportunity to play. I think the team knows the presence of these two players is to help the team."
Likewise, Shamil feels the addition of winger Webb will improve the team, especially up front.
“Players like Jordan will add value to the team, because he’s been playing in the S.League for quite some time,” he pointed out.
“He’s been one of the top goal-scorers for a few seasons too. I think with him in our squad it will help boost us in terms of attacking, because our problem last year was to score goals, and he can help us with this season.”
Aide feels that the team should be aiming to finish higher up in the table this season and has targeted a mid-table finish, though he emphasised the importance of working towards the SEA Games in the long run.
“I expect them to do better [this season],” the former Singapore captain said.
“I would like to move up the ranks. We have to go up from being last the previous season. I would like to push my players to go up as high, maybe the top six or top seven, which is realistic.
“Whatever it is, the long term target is still the SEA Games. We are using this platform in the S.League for the players to try and gain exposure and to benefit playing in the league. It won't be easy, it will be a tough road for this boys, but we are using it, we are trying to maximise it and hopefully achieve as much as we can.
The Young Lions will kick off their campaign against Balestier Khalsa at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday evening.