Dickson fires up the Elephants

He is arguably the biggest signing of the new Malaysian Super League (MSL) season, and could turn Malaysia Cup champions Pahang into a team who can challenge on multiple fronts this year. Former Kelantan striker Dickson Nwakaeme has already got Pahang fans dreaming of league success.

"Much is expected of Dickson this year. He was at the top of our shopping list, and we are glad we (signed) him," said Pahang team manager Zainal Abidin Hassan yesterday. Pahang will host the LionsXII at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan tomorrow in the opening game of the MSL season, and will likely feature a strike combination of Argentina striker Matias Conti and Dickson.

LionsXII fans will remember Dickson for his stunning half-volley in the 2-0 win by Kelantan in Kota Baru last season. The 27-year-old Nigerian, who stands at 1.87 metres, notched 13 goals in 24 matches, including six in the Malaysia Cup, last year.

"Allowing each club to have four foreigners means we can field two of them in attack," said Zainal, speaking to The New Paper in a phone interview yesterday. "After the Malaysia Cup win, the target for the club this year is to win the Super League."

Pahang have roped in English coach Ronald Smith to replace Dollah Salleh, who left for second-tier Premier League side PDRM after guiding the team to victory in the Malaysia Cup last season. The 64-year-old Smith is no stranger to Malaysian football, having coached Sabah to the M-League title in 1996.

He spent the last eight years in Australia, serving as an assistant coach, scout, and adviser for the national team. Pahang have retained Jamaican Damion Stewart and brought in Pakistan's Zesh Rehman, but under MSL rules, can field only three foreigners in a match.

Both defenders have English football experience. Rehman played for Fulham from 2003 to 2006, while Stewart played five seasons for Queens Park Rangers until 2010. "We still aren't sure who (between Stewart and Rehman) will line up against the LionsXII," Zainal said. "Our preparations have been okay.

"We lost all three games during our pre-season tour of Hong Kong, but the team have been training well since. "Our main worry now is the state of our home pitch. It's not in good shape because of so much rain recently. Hopefully, it'll be okay (tomorrow) for the game."

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