Amri Yahyah to make difference for Melaka United says CB Khair Jones
Melaka United defender Khair Jones believes the arrival of veteran forward Amri Yahyah is an important step for the Malaysia Premier League champions, as they aim to settle into life in the top flight.
In 2016, the Mousedeers completed a return to the Malaysia Super League after a decade, and swiftly moved to infuse their cast with firepower which included Amri, signed from Johor Darul Ta'zim.
"Among all the players, Amri is the biggest name here. Even though he's at the tail end of his career, he is still so skillful, and comes with spades of experience," Khair told ESPN FC.
"He will be an important player for us."
Melaka United's stellar 2016 campaign saw them win 15 games en route to the MPL title, nicked by two points over closest rivals, PKNS FC.
Their outstanding achievement earned the plaudits of their main sponsor Mamee, who provided the financial backing for the club to sign quality players for 2017.
Besides Malaysia captain Amri, Tokyo-born youngster Tam Sheang Tsung and Izzaq Faris Ramlan are the other locals who will grace the historic state side.
Melaka have also retained 2016 MPL top marksman Ilija Spasojevic, besides acquiring Sweden's Omid Nazari, Ghana defender Godwin Antwi and Argentine Sergio Aguero, who's not related to the Manchester City striker.
Mamee decided to reward Melaka with a trip to Manchester for their return to the higher echelons of Malaysian football.
"We went to visit Old Trafford, and spent a day in London after that. After that, I returned home to New Zealand for a bit," said Khair, who is also enjoying life under new coach Eric Williams.
"It was a nice break to rejuvenate and prepare for the new season. I have a similar background to his, coming from the same region, so I am used to his coaching style. He does plenty of drills which makes you put in a lot of thought into what you're doing."
Williams holds Australian and British passports, and is the father of former Socceroo Rhys Williams, who played in the English Premier League with Middlesbrough.
The mellow Khair will find himself in the biggest season of his career, having come from semi-professional stints in New Zealand before his move to Melaka.
Despite adapting to a new footballing environment, the lanky centre-back made an instant impact with his aerial presence and awareness, playing a pivotal role in Melaka's title-winning run.
Khair also made three appearance for the national team, and scored the opening goal in Malaysia's 3-0 win over Timor Leste in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers last June.
His towering height makes him a big presence both in central defence, and at left-back.
"Playing in the Super League will be challenging. But we have to continue from last season, and do well. I am also ready to assume any position the coach wants me to," Jones said.
Melaka will open their 2017 MSL campaign away to Kelantan on Jan. 21.
Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.