Hasrin Jailani predicts Geylang International improvement in S.League
Geylang International have their sights set on reaching lofty heights when the 2017 S.League season kicks off at the end of the month.
Traditionally one of Singapore football's more celebrated clubs, the past few years have seen the Eagles encounter trying times, although they took a significant step in the right direction last year.
In his first season as a senior coach, Hasrin Jailani performed admirably to guide his side to a fifth-place finish in the S.League, and they were only pipped to an AFC Cup spot by Home United on goal difference.
Having done reasonably well in his maiden campaign, Hasrin has decided to largely keep his faith in the same group, retaining 14 players from last season, including Japanese centre-back Yuki Ichikawa, seasoned campaigners like Isa Halim and Nor Azli Yusoff, and current Singapore internationals such as Gabriel Quak and Faritz Hameed.
Nonetheless, he is quietly confident that stability and familiarity will stand them in good stead this year.
"Of course, in whatever job you're in, there will always be targets set that you must try and meet," Hasrin told ESPN FC.
"We're aware that all the other teams have really strengthened while we, on the other hand, retained 14 players and did not bring in any new local players.
"But this doesn't mean we're giving up on our ambitions for this season.
"Before a ball is kicked, everyone stands an equal chance to we will just focus on fighting for each other.
"Especially considering a lot of these boys have now been together for one year, hopefully this can be a positive thing for us."
Two new faces who are expected to feature prominently are Argentine playmaker Ricardo Sendra and Costa Rican striker Victor Coto. They replace Carlos Delgado and Mark Hartmann as Geylang's two other imports this year.
With a good balance of experience and youth at his disposal, Hasrin sees no reason why the Eagles cannot match it with the title challengers -- should they be able to find some consistency.
"It is my belief that, if we can play to our best, we can definitely match any other side in the league," added the former Singapore international.
"We know that perhaps we don't have as much depth as last season, so we'll have to be wary of injuries and suspensions.
"But I have faith in these players and now it's all about putting in the hard work and seeing how far it takes us."
Geylang International squad for 2017 S.League season
Goalkeepers: Nur Amin Malik, Syazwan Buhari
Defenders: Anders Aplin, Yuki Ichikawa, Darren Teh, Faritz Hameed, Safirul Sulaiman, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Fahrish Khan
Midfielders: Isa Halim, Umar Akhbar, Gabriel Quak, Ricardo Sendra, Shahfiq Ghani, Stanely Ng, Nor Azli Yusoff, Taufiq Ghani
Forwards: Victor Coto, Amy Recha, Shawal Anuar
Gabriel Tan is a TV and radio pundit who writes for ESPN FC and The New Paper on Southeast Asian football. Twitter: @gabetan13.