News • February 26, 2017
New-Look Albirex Keen To Emulate 2016 Success
After their impressive achievement last year, the White Swans are gunning for more success with the appointment of a new head coach and a new-look squad this season. New season, new team and a new coach.
After an unprecedented quadruple in 2016 where they won all the trophies that were on offer in domestic football, there will be a new face at the helm of Albirex Niigata (S).
Kazuaki Yoshinaga is the man tasked to lead the team in the upcoming season after 2016 Coach of the Year Naoki Naruo parted ways with the club at the end of last season.
In a trophy-laden season where the Japanese outfit created history, they not only lifted the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League trophy, but also the Community Shield, RHB Singapore Cup as well as the TNP League Cup.
Former Ventforet Kofu assistant coach Yoshinga will undoubtedly be looking to continue the legacy left behind by his predecessor, but will have to work with a relatively new-look squad with only seven players being retained from last year.
The Jurong East-based side have lost the services of 2016 S.League Player of the Year Atsushi Kawata who returns to parent club Albirex Niigata Japan while nippy winger Tatsuro Inui has joined Thai side Thai Honda FC for the new season.
Shoichiro Sakamoto and Ryuta Motoda have been brought in to fill the void of the above-mentioned duo, and they bring with them some valuable experience having played in the J2 League for Zweigen Kanazawa and Mito HollyHock respectively.
While full-back Naofumi Tanaka has been retained, the backline that served Albirex so well last year has however been broken up with Atsushi Shirota moving to Hougang United, Kento Fujihara to Cambodian side Nagaworld FC while Mikiya Yamada has been released.
If it’s any consolation however, goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa will keep goal for another year while newly-appointed skipper and midfield maestro Shuto Inaba, Naofumi Tanaka, Kento Nagasaki, Hiroyoshi Kamata, Tomoki Menda and Rui Kumada will continue to don the Albirex jersey.
In his third year with the club, Nozawa has expressed his desire to continue playing at this level as long as his body allows him to.
“To be able to stay overseas for three years, it’s a new challenge for me and I really cherish this experience,” said the 38-year-old shotstopper.
“I hope to continue my professional football career as long as possible. As long as I continue to be a player in the S.League, I want to do my best to win everything that is possible.”
While the road to defending their titles is going to be an arduous one, former Albirex captain Nozawa is relishing the challenge.
“It was difficult winning all four titles last year, but we managed to do it,” said Nozawa.
“However, if we want to win all four titles again this year, it will be more difficult. If we are able to do it again, it will be a fantastic achievement for me.”
With a new coach and a new set of players whom he has to work with, Nozawa believes it is imperative that they establish an understanding on the pitch in the shortest possible time.
“We not only have three seasons with three different head coaches, but most of the players are new,” he added.
“We have many new players so every year is a new challenge and every year we have to get the team to gel as quickly as possible so that we can challenge.”
One such new player in the team who hopes to prove his worth this season is midfielder Yuki Yamanouchi, having joined from J2 side Oita Trinita in the off-season.
While the objective in his first season in the S.League is to “win all the titles”, the 22-year-old hopes to offer something to his side this season.
He said: “I would like to contribute more in the attacking third with my passing ability and also at the same time, hope to get some goals.”
Expressing confidence in his team’s ability to defend their crown this season, Yamanouchi has also stated his ambition to play for Japan one day.
“As a football player, naturally I would like to represent my country one day so now everyday I have to work hard to improve my skills,” he enthused.
The White Swans will meet Tampines Rovers in the Great Eastern Community Shield in their season opener on 26 February at the National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub. The match will kick-off at 6pm.
S.League 2017 fixtures: http://sleague.com/fixtures-results/fixtures/s-league