Written by: Nigel Chin
Tampines Rovers chairman Krishna Ramachandra admitted that there is a chance two more LionsXII players will be added to their squad after signing six of them on Wednesday.
Christopher van Huizen, Firdaus Kasman, Hafiz Sujad, Afiq Yunos, Sufian Anuar, and Izzdin Shafiq put pen to paper to be part of the 2016 Tampines squad that will be competing in the AFC Champions League qualifiers.
In addition, they have also added Fazrul Nawaz, who plundered in 18 goals in 2015 for Warriors FC. Five players, namely Fahrudin Mustafic, Joey Sim, Ismadi Mukhtar, Jufri Taha and Fabian Kwok have also been retained.
The Stags are looking to wrestle the S.League title from Brunei DPMM next season, which will be their first in three years.
Chariman Krishna have quietly assembled a formidable team for coach V. Sundramoorthy.
“Honestly, if I was going to give Sundram the best players you could possibly get I would raid Anfield and get the Liverpool players across,” Krishna quipped.
“But actually, these are very rock solid players. What I’ve been trying to put forward to Sundram and I’ve been working very closely with him, is to try and put a squad together who can work as a team, who have got ambition and are looking at the next stage of their career.”
Krishna also admitted that he is still in negotiation with two more LionsXII players, one of them rumoured to be goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud.
“I made a very good offer to one player,” Krisha explained.
“With a very clear understanding that if he gets an offer from Japan or Thailand, he goes there because I want him to go there and not here. But that was done in the spirit of promoting local football because I don’t want our boys to be shortchanged. That’s what we are doing as a club, and if it doesn’t work out he will be with us.
“I’ve got another player who is still considering, so we may go up to eight players [from LionsXII].”
Krishna was delighted after coach V. Sundramoorthy returned for a second season to helm the team.
The former LionsXII coach rejected offers from Malaysia side Kelantan FA, and will be leading Tampines in 2016.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Sundram,” Krishna said.
“He’s a very honest coach. He works very hard – he’s got a very high work-rate – and it’s hard to fault someone like that.
“When I look back at last season, I know we did not win the league, but I also knew it wasn’t necessary because of the coach. We had some problems in the dressing room and the spirit wasn’t quite there. If you like, what we went through is similar to what Chelsea is going through. Does it make Mourinho any lesser a coach? No way.
So in my mind he’s always a good coach. I’m happy to give a second opportunity, to build a rock solid team and put Singapore on the map. It requires someone who is committed and who can trust and work closely with the players he has. He has been instrumental with a lot of the players that have signed on.
“They have faith and trust in him. They know what he’s all about.”