New-look Eagles aim for top-six finish

Geylang International coach Vedhamuthu Kanan believes his side can realise chairman Leong Kok Fann's top-six aspirations in the 2013 S.League season
By Kenneth Tan

The Geylang International class of 2013 will sport a refreshing look from yesteryear, with a large focus on young,upcoming players and a dash of Japanese flair.

Out goes experienced campaigners Yazid Yasin, Syed Fadhil and Shahril Alias, and in comes fresh, local faces such as the likes of goalkeeper Joey Sim, defender Delwinder Singh, old-boy Yasir Hanapi. In addition, the new Japanese trio of goalkeeper Takuma Ito, defender Norihiro Kawakami and forward Shotaro Ihata have also joined the Eagles.

Furthermore, six players from the Prime League squad have been promoted in a rather unprecedented move in Singapore football.

However, coach Vedhamuthu Kanan is confident his boys will fare well in the absence of old heads.

"I let go of the experienced players because I have belief in my young and hardworking players," he said.

"The players whom I chose can do well. They have been with me for two years in the Prime League and also featured quite a lot in the S.League last season, so I know they can make the step up."

It has been a satisfying off-season for the rookie coach, who claimed to have clinched 'three-quarter' of his targeted signings for 2013.

"Actually I brought those players which I wanted to sign into the Sultan of Selangor's squad [last September]," he revealed.

"Joey was originally in that team but he was not released by the club in the end. Meanwhile, I was [also] interested in Fazli Ayob but the budget was tight."

The 48-year-old also echoed chairman Leong Kok Fann's target of finishing in the top half for the new season.

"I think we have a complete team," he boasted.

"I'm looking at the five foreigners being the backbone of the team; one goalkeeper, one defender, two central midfielders and one striker with the local boys supporting from the flanks.

"Ito is tall and commanding; I believe the team will have a lot of confidence with him in goal, while Joey will give him a good fight.

"There are a lot of new players but they should know my coaching style within a few days. The league's a long season but I do think it's possible to finish in the top six."

The new-look squad will be skippered by Slovakian forward Jozef Kaplan, who was the second-highest scorer in the league last season with 16 goals.

"He's [been] with us since last year and has been a real role model. He's disciplined and hardworking, in terms of leadership qualities he's the best choice as captain," he concluded.

The 26-year-old is relishing his captaincy role, with prior experience in donning the armband in a couple of games with Slovakian club MFK Ružomberok.

"I'm happy to be the captain of this team. I don't want to talk [about] an exact position; I just hope we can improve," he told Singapore.

"I know many people will be waiting for me to score many [goals] like last season, but I will be happy if my other teammates are scoring as well."

Geylang International will take on Johor Darul Takzim away in a friendly on February 3 before going on a week-long pre-season tour in Kuala Lumpur, where they will play three games.

The S.League season is scheduled to kick off on February 20.

Geylang International 2013 S.League Squad:

1. Takuma Ito (GK), 2. Khairulnizam Juhamat, 3. Khayrulhayat Jumat, 4. Delwinder Singh, 5.Duncan Elias, 7. Norihiro Kawakami, 8. Jalal, 9. Shotaro Ihata, 10. Yasir Hanapi, 11. Stefan Milojevic, 12. Fabian Kwok, 14. Wahyudi Wahid, 15. Shah Hirul, 16. Amy Recha, 17. Jozef Kaplan (captain), 18. Norhazwan Norasikin, 19. Joey Sim (GK), 20. Taufik Ghani