Malaysian FA Cup: From crocked to clinical

Malaysian FA Cup: From crocked to clinical
Extra work in the gym, which Khairul Nizam wasn’t keen to do in the past, has helped him stay away from injuries.

Big things were expected of Khairul Nizam when he signed for the LionsXII in 2012.

Alas, the injury jinx struck and the forward spent long spells on the sidelines and became a peripheral figure in coach Fandi Ahmad's plans.

This season, it looks like the 23-year-old has finally put his injury woes behind him.

Four goals in five games - his longest run of matches injury-free - have given Nizam plenty to smile about.

Riding on a wave of confidence, he capped his recent form and fitness with a goal in the first leg of the Malaysian FA Cup semi-final against Terengganu in front of 5,891 fans at the Jalan Besar Stadium last Saturday.

Nizam admits to being much fitter and healthier than before, and he gives the LionsXII backroom staff credit for that.

"A lot of the credit has to go to Kak Fizah and Sasha, (team physiotherapist Nurhafizah Sujad and fitness coach Aleksandar Bozenko respectively) and the backroom staff," said Nizam yesterday.

PLAGUED

"In the past two years, I could barely string a run of consecutive games together without sustaining some sort of injury.

"But, ever since the middle of last season, when my injury problems started becoming such a recurring nightmare, they've put me in rehabilitative training.

"I do extra work such as squats in the gym - working on core muscles, knees and ankles. These were things I wasn't disciplined enough to do in the past, so I'm very thankful to have them around."

Nizam's fitness problems have been well documented. After making 17 appearances in all competitions in his debut LionsXII season in 2012, he played only six times - four in 2013 and two in 2014 - in the following two seasons.

But Fandi has always believed in the player who first burst onto the scene with the Young Lions in 2009 as a power forward with the strength and robustness of former national striker Noh Alam Shah.

Said Fandi: "Nizam gives us that physical edge up front against the big foreign defenders in the Malaysian Super League.

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