Inspired Jaguars eye title to sign off fine season

Inspired Jaguars eye title to sign off fine season

SINGAPORE - If he could use one word in his native tongue to describe the season for Tanjong Pagar United, coach Patrick Vallee would say "bonne".

That's good in French.

Fresh from their best league campaign since 2011 - the Jaguars finished sixth in this year's Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League - Tanjong Pagar are busy preparing for a showdown with Home United in the RHB Singapore Cup final on Friday.

With Vallee in command and a legion of foreign players with French roots forming the team's spine, it is tempting to suggest that a French revolution has taken place at Queenstown Stadium.

But, as he worked on his tactics for the final, Vallee told The New Paper: "When you're foreign, if you don't bring something good to the football and only bad things like bad play or dirty play, it's not good enough for the country.

"You must bring your philosophy, but most importantly, you must adapt yourself to the club and country when you coach a local team.

"It is not the local players who must adapt to the foreign players - the foreign players must adapt to the locals and my foreign players adapted very fast."

This was evident when Tanjong Pagar exploded out of the blocks in this season's S-League, as new signings Monsef Zerka, Ismael Benahmed and Kamel Ramdani sparkled with 18 goals between them in the first 10 matches.

New goalkeeper Aurelien Herisson and ex-Etoile FC defender Anthony Aymard have also played their part with outstanding performances right through the season.

While they have had to adjust to Singapore and their local teammates, Benahmed says the French connection at Tanjong Pagar have helped each other in their new surroundings.

"We are very close friends and we feel this on the field," said the 24-year-old striker.

"Outside of football, we're strong friends who do a lot of things together and if you're the only French in the team, I think it would be difficult."


Zerka, a former Moroccan international who was born in France, added: "It is very easy when you have many French players around to support you when you need some friends around.

"We feel the unity between us and we feel that same way on the pitch because we automatically know what to do to help one another."

While Zerka and Co. have done their bit to get used to Singapore, some of their culture has definitely rubbed on their Singaporean teammates.

When asked if the local lads had started to speak French in dressing room, Vallee said: "Yes, definitely.

"They like to learn some French words - and a lot of bad ones!

"But I like to see my changing room after training because they enjoy their time together and it's a very good feeling."

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