BY NICK MEASURES Follow on Twitter
After losing last year’s Singapore Cup final and fading in the title chase, Home United are putting their faith in a young team and an inexperienced new coach to bring them trophy success this season. In particular, they are hoping that their commitment to youth development program will start to bear fruit.
Having launched their Football Academy last February Home United impressed last season in the younger age categories winning the U14, U16 and U18 titles last year, while the U21 Prime League team won the title and becoming the first team to go unbeaten throughout a whole season. It’s therefore not surprising that a number of young players are now looking to make the step up to the main squad.
Three players from the title winning side goalkeeper Eko Pradana Putra, striker Sufianto Salleh and the Prime League top scorer last season Nur Hizami Salim have been handed the chance to see if they can make the grade at the senior level. Indeed, underlining a commitment to the youth team has an average age of just 27 while 40% of the squad players unveiled at the recent season launch are under 25.
Despite that unprecedented success it was still a surprise to many when Home United chose to promote their U21 coach, former Home player Philip Aw to the Head Coach role following the resignation of South Korean Lee Lim-Saeng in December. The 37-year old has no previous experience at this level but that hasn’t stopped his chairman declaring that the Protectors are gunning for all three trophies. While even Aw admits he was surprised when he first learnt he had got the job, he remains unfazed by the task ahead.
"In life we aim high, and I firmly believe that with the team we have, if we work hard together we can do it because after all, football is a team sport," Aw asserted at the team’s recent season launch, before promising his team will be entertaining to watch.
“We want to take the initiative, pour forward and play an exciting brand of football to bring the fans back to the S-League,” he continued.
While the squad definitely has a youthful edge, Home have still ensured there is plenty of experience as well. Veteran defender 34 year old Noh Rahman continues as the club captain, while the Protectors have also added plenty of local depth with the acquisitions of Imran Sahib, Abdul Qaiyyim, Ang Zhi Wei, and goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Juma’at from Tampines Rovers.
As well as retaining the services of South Korean Song In Young and Frenchman Sirina Camara they also seem to have shopped wisely in terms of the foreign additions, managing to snap up experienced Algerian-French midfielder Kamel Ramdani from Tanjong Pagar, and 19-year-old Ambroise Begue, from French Ligue 2 side AS Nancy's reserves.
However, the biggest boost to their chances has to be the addition of Danish forward Ken Ilso Larsen. The 28-year old arrives in Singapore with a weighty pedigree having spent time in the Dutch Eredivisie side Heerenveen youth setup and helping Fortuna Dusseldorf into the Bundesliga where he got to play against the likes of Bayern Munich. After a spell at VLF Bochum he made the move to Asia last year, signing for Chinese Super League club Guanzhou R&F, then managed by Sven Goran Erikkson.
His addition to an intriguing and exciting young team could be the key to the Protectors’ title ambitions this time around but whatever happens it looks like it could be a lot of fun.
We’ll get a better idea when their season kicks off against Geylang International on 3 March at Bedok Stadium.