News Singapore Premier League • February 9, 2014
Stewart Aims For Top-Half Finish With New-Look Rams
Written by: Muhammad Yazid
In his six years of coaching, this coach has never seen his team finish in the bottom half of the table nor has he engendered catastrophe to them.
Appointed as Woodlands Wellington’s new coach for the 2014 season, Darren Stewart – who takes over the reins from Salim Moin – is expected to emulate his predecessor’s success with the northern-based club who undoubtedly were the most improved team after their fifth-placed finish last season, considering the fact that the Rams were wooden spoonists for three consecutive years.
Many will be expecting pressure to be pile up on the former Australian international, but Stewart remains unfazed.
“I understand that Woodlands were wooden spoonists for three years before finishing fifth last season,” he said.
“But that wouldn’t mean that it will be hard on me. I don’t see any pressure mounted on me because I have confidence and we would work things out as a team.
“Many of the players haven’t played together before so this pre-season is very effective in allowing them to gel as a team (and) enforcing good team spirit,” the 48-year-old pointed out.
In 2009, Stewart led Gombak United to the second runners-up spot before finishing in sixth for the next two years. Balestier then came calling in 2012 and he made an immediate impact as he lifted the Toa Payoh-based side to sixth place, bettering their tenth place finish the previous season.
Last season, the Tigers won their first ever silverware in the form of the Starhub League Cup and they also went on to finish fourth in the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League before Stewart parted ways with the club.
Ahead of the upcoming season, the former Johor FA captain and Malaysian FA Cup winner has set a top-half finish for his side and says it is a ‘reasonable target’ to achieve.
“Anywhere at the top half of the table would be good and with the team I have I think that’s where we belong. The boys are fit and very hardworking,” the tactician says.
However, Stewart also admitted that it will take time for the Rams to settle down in the new season.
“It will probably take four or five matches before they settle down and reach their peak in terms of expectations and performance.”
While they have retained the services of eleven players, Woodlands have strengthened the squad with the captures of former Geylang International star Stefan Milojevic as well as defenders Walid Lounis and Bah Mamadou who returns for a second stint with the club.
Veteran goalkeeper Yazid Yasin has also been retained along with other notable names like Armanizam Dolah and Rosman Sulaiman. Occupying the final foreigner slot in the team is Serbian defender Milos Jevtic who completes the foreign-quota roster with Milojevic and the retained trio of Atsushi Shimono, Moon Soon Ho and Chang Jo Yoon.
Woodlands will open their 2014 season with a trip to the Hougang Stadium on 22nd February where they look to lock horns with Hougang United. Be sure to be there to catch Darren and his army in action!
Woodlands Wellington 2014 Squad
1*) Ahmadulhaq Che Omar
18) Yazid Yasin
2) Bah Mamadou
3) Walid Lounis
4) Shahril Alias
12) Milos Jevtic
21) Rosman Sulaiman (Captain)
5) Armanizam Dolah
6) Atsushi Shimono
8) Stefan Milojevic
11) Taufiq Ghani
13) Shafuan Sutomoh
14) Andy Ahmad
16) Farouq Farkhan
7) Chang Jo Yoon
9) Goh Swee Swee
10) Moon Soon Ho
15) Fadhil Noh
17 Sobrie Mazelan
20 Patrick Brian Paranjody