Football: Eagles eye top 3 spot

Football: Eagles eye top 3 spot
Eagles coach Jorg Steinebrunner (above) has boosted his squad with proven S.League players like Bruno Castanheira, Jozef Kaplan, Tatsuro Inui and Sevki Sha'ban.

They are the most storied football club in Singapore, with a rich history of trophies and star names.

Former national captains Leong Kok Fann and Fandi Ahmad once wore the team's fabled green and white, with the latter leading the side to the inaugural S.League title in 1996.

But years of mid-table mediocrity have seen Geylang International lose their lustre, and the club ended the 2014 Great EasternYeo's S.League season in a lowly eighth place out of 12 teams - a whopping 21 points behind champions Warriors.

But in their pre-season press conference last night at Downtown East, chairman Leong and coach Jorg Steinebrunner were both in bullish mood, with the German proclaiming a top-three finish in 2015 a possibility.

Steinebrunner said a top-half finish for the first time since 2010 was the immediate aim, and Leong added: "I'm quietly confident that this year we'll do much better than we did the last time out. We are in the process of building a very good team here and we have the right players to do that.

"We have a good squad for the upcoming season."

The Eagles have certainly strengthened this season.

They retained two foreigners - Kento Fukuda and Yuki Ichikawa - and the other three slots have been filled by former Albirex Niigata star Bruno Castanheira and ex-Warriors attacker Tatsuro Inui, while old-boy Jozef Kaplan has returned to boost the attack.

COACHING CHANGE

Geylang saw a coaching change last year when V Kanan left and Steinebrunner took over, and the German said: "Last season, I think we didn't do too badly, taking into account that I only took charge of the team almost at the halfway mark.

"This time, we've had a good pre-season with sufficient time and opportunities to work with the team as much as I need.

"I'd like to see us finish in the top three, especially with players like Bruno, Jozef and Sevki Sha'ban in the squad.

"But, realistically, a top-half finish would do fine."

Kaplan turned out for Tampines last season but he was delighted to be back at Bedok Stadium.

Said the Czech: "I'm glad to be back at Geylang, where my S.League journey started in 2012. I just want to play football, and coming back here is the best place for me right now."

OLDEST PLAYER

Goalkeeper Yazid Yasin, 39, who joined the club after Woodlands Wellington merged with Hougang United, is officially the S.League's oldest player.

"I'm not ready to retire yet, so I'm happy that I've finally found a club in Geylang," said the veteran, who will try to dislodge the No. 1 from last year, Hairul Syirhan.

"It won't be easy to be the first-choice 'keeper, especially at my age, but I'll give it everything I have."

Before the press conference yesterday, the Eagles signed a one-year partnership with Kata Group Resorts Thailand, a deal which will see the club receive discounted rates whenever they travel to the country.

The club have still to find main sponsors, and a shirt sponsor.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official said negotiations are ongoing with an undisclosed party for a shirt deal.

"We are managing very well despite the lack of a shirt sponsor," said the club official.

"For the past few years, we have always made it a policy to ensure that regardless of what happens within the club, money will always be available.

"We've done this by ensuring that our finances are always sorted out before the start of every season.

"So, even if talks with a possible sponsor breaks down, we will always be able to cope on the financial front."


This article was first published on February 1, 2015.
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