News • February 25, 2017

Stags Look To Do One Better


Following a promising yet unyielding 2016 campaign, Tampines Rovers are raring to go in their pursuit for greater success this season.

Having played second fiddle to Albirex Niigata (S) in every domestic competition last season, the Stags have installed ex-East Germany international Juergen Raab as their new head coach in a bid to change their fortunes.

Raab, who replaces Akbar Nawas in the Tampines hotseat, is not an unfamiliar face in the local football fraternity however.

Following a stint as the fitness coach at the Football Association of Singapore in 2014, he then took over as coach of the Garena Young Lions in 2015 and led the developmental side to a ninth-placed finish in a ten-team S.League.

While Raab hopes to deliver S.League success during his stay at Tampines, he prioritises to see his charges progress and play an attractive style of football.

“Winning titles is the target for the three years that I’m going to be here, but I cannot say for sure that we will achieve that in the first year,” he noted.

“I always have high expectations for the team. I want to bring in good performances on the pitch, play a good style of football and improve as the season progresses.”

Tampines have been active in the off-season and they will be counting on new signings and Singapore internationals Khairul Amri, Madhu Mohana, Daniel Bennett and Hafiz Rahim will provide much-needed experience in their quest for title contention once more.

Former LionsXII goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud is expected to reprise his role as Tampines’ number one in goal, while Fazrul Nawaz would continue another season in the Stags’ imposing strikeforce.

The Stags have also successfully acquired the services of South Korean midfielder Son Yong Chan, Japanese winger Ryutaro Megumi and Croatian striker Ivan Dzoni, while retaining the likes of veterans Fahrudin Mustafic and Ismadi Mukhtar as well as midfielders Yasir Hanapi and Shahdan Sulaiman.

With a new phase of life expected to ensue, following the departure of the formidable attacking trio of Jermaine Pennant, Billy Mehmet and Jordan Webb, Raab is anticipating how quickly his side can adapt and show that they can challenge for the title.

With large shoes to fill in the Tampines offense, Amri is keen to replicate his goal scoring form during his third stint with the Stags.

“It’s going to be hard as every match is different. Last season was one of my hardest seasons ever with the Young Lions, but I would like to hit the 100-goal mark in the league before I retire,” Amri proclaimed.

As he features in yet another S.League season, Amri has expressed his desire to end off 2017 with a bang.

He is hopeful Tampines are capable of marching to S.League glory as they did in 2013 when he was part of the title-winning squad.

“We have a number of national players and a strong team to challenge for the title. Having played in the S.League for so many seasons, I hope to cap it off by winning the title this season,” he said.

After being the sole striker in the Garena Young Lions outfit last season, Amri will be joined by new striking companions Dzoni and Fazrul in the attacking department.

While keeping a spot in the starting line-up could be a recurring challenge for the strikers, his club and national teammate Fazrul is convinced that the healthy competition will bring about an extra boost of synergy to the team.

“It is a plus for us because we have played together and known each other’s style, strength and weakness. So that would make us complement each other even better,” said Fazrul.

“We have all been giving our 110% best at trainings and in pre-season games, so hopefully we can show what we can do, and perform well for the club with a great history.”

Singapore will only be the second country outside of Croatia which Dzoni will be playing his football in, but the forward is fast adapting to new surroundings and is vying to bag as many goals this season.

“I think we can offer good games, because we have a really strong team and we are now getting fitter than before. I look forward to a good season,” the Croatian said.

“My goal is always to fight for top goal scorer, and even though I’m a striker, I can also operate as an attacking midfielder or left-winger to adhere to our tactics.”

Tampines will begin their season with a match against Albirex Niigata (S) in the Great Eastern Community Shield on 26 February at the National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub. The match will kick-off at 6pm.

S.League 2017 fixtures: