Signing for the LionsXII and testing himself in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) this year was supposed to be a major breakthrough for Sahil Suhaimi.
Alas, a season that promised so much eventually fizzled out, with the 23-year-old footballer unable to nail down a place in coach Fandi Ahmad's starting XI.
But, with the LionsXII booted out of the MSL and disbanded, the striker hopes to put what has been a difficult year behind him, as he returns to his old hunting ground, the domestic S-League, having signed with Geylang International for the upcoming season.
Seeking a fresh start with the Eagles, who finished eighth in the 10-team league last season, Sahil explained the promise of regular playing time, coupled with his familiarity with the club, convinced him to move to Bedok Stadium.
Tampines Rovers, Warriors FC and Balestier Khalsa were also believed to have sought his services.
The Singapore international, who played for Geylang's U-16 team before joining the National Football Academy, said: "It's too early to talk about the title but we definitely have an exciting team.
"The most important thing is to meet the team for pre-season, get to know everyone well and ensure we all start from the same page, including what we want to accomplish for the new season."
Geylang have shown their intent for the next campaign by snapping up other LionsXII players like right-back Faritz Hameed, winger Gabriel Quak and defender Al-Qaasimy Rahman. Ex-LionsXII players Shahfiq Ghani and Safirul Sulaiman have also joined the club.
As Geylang are set to give him regular first-team football, Sahil, who is known for his finishing and free-kicks, looked back on a stop-start year for him that earned him both bouquets and brickbats.
He said: "It was a big step in my career. Playing in Malaysia was a whole new experience, and there were a lot of ups and downs. There was the Malaysia FA Cup final which was awesome, but also the SEA Games, which was difficult."
His star shone brightest in May's final against Kelantan. With the score tied at 1-1, he came on in the 58th minute and fired in two goals to bring the cup to Singapore.
In total, he netted six times for Fandi's team last season.
But during June's SEA Games, he was pilloried for missing a string of chances as the Under-23s exited from the group stages on home soil.
Reflecting on the year, he said: "That's football. Sometimes, you try your best but things don't go your way. I definitely want to do better."
"There are many things I want to improve on, including my finishing.
"I also want to be more consistent and, to do that, I need to play regularly," he noted.
This article was first published on December 25, 2015.
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