Football: Big changes for LionsXII

Football: Big changes for LionsXII
LionsXII training: feature on new players Christopher Huizen, Izzdin Shafiq, Wahyudi Wahid.

One old boy has returned, and of two new faces, one stood out in the Great Eastern Yeo's S.League last season while the other is a former reality TV star.

Despite the three editions, the LionsXII will enter their fourth season in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) next year with possibly their thinnest squad, although coach Fandi Ahmad vowed to do everything to develop young players and entertain.

His three signings are 23-year-old midfielder Izzdin Shafiq from Home United, 25-year-old utility man Wahyudi Wahid from Hougang United and 22-year-old winger Christopher van Huizen, who appeared on MediaCorp programme First XI before joining Tampines Rovers.

Speaking to The New Paper on the sidelines of a training session at Jalan Besar Stadium last night, Fandi said: "We wanted Izzdin last season but missed out on his signature. He brings good vision and experience, having played for the LionsXII before, and he is also defensively strong.

"Wahyudi was a key player for Hougang. He is versatile, can play in many positions, and has good reading and technique.

"Chris has good pace and football intelligence. He can play on either flank and is good with both feet, although he needs to build on his physique."

While the LionsXII will look to improve after finishing eighth out of 12 teams in the 2014 MSL season, they have been hit by some serious injuries and the possible departure of key players.

Fandi's biggest signing would have been Tampines and Singapore star midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman, but he suffered a horrific leg break in the Suzuki Cup last week, while fellow midfielder Raihan Rahman is recovering from a torn knee ligament.

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Left back Shakir Hamzah, forward Shahfiq Ghani and winger Faris Ramli, who contributed eight goals for the LionsXII this year, are all likely to be recruited for the Courts Young Lions as the under-23 side prepare for the 2015 SEA Games here in June.

As of now, Fandi has signed 23 players ahead of today's transfer deadline.

"As you can see, we have a thinner squad than last season, while the Malaysian teams may be able to field four foreigners in the new season," said Fandi.

"Expectations will be high, and we will try to make the best of what we've got.

"Shahdan is a big loss but Khairul Amri is back to his scoring best and players like Khairul Nizam are back from injury, and we hope they will score many goals next season."

Fandi will also want to be able to count on the new boys' desire to win a place in the starting 11.

Wahyudi, a three-time Prime League champion who impressed as a centre back for Hougang despite not being a natural defender, said: "It's a great opportunity for me to shine and my first target is to break into the first team.

"It's a big challenge because I have to fight for my position against national team players.

"Playing in the Sultan of Selangor's Cup was a good experience because we faced strong foreigners like Paulo Rangel, who were a lot better than I expected.

davidlee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 05, 2014.
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