S.League: Rams hope for 'milo' tonic

SERB POWER: Milos Jevtic (left) and Stefan Milojevic will add strength to the Rams.

SINGAPORE - They surpassed expectations to finish fifth in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League last season.

Woodlands' hopes of replicating their outstanding 2013 will depend, in some part, on how well their two new "Milo" imports fare.

Defender Milos Jevtic is a no-nonsense centre back who models his game after Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic.

Forward Stefan Milojevic, the former Birmingham City and Monaco man who used to don Geylang International's colours, is another important addition to the squad.

To avoid confusion, the team have resorted to calling Jevtic "Mickey".

New Woodlands coach Darren Stewart believes the Rams could be a force to be reckoned with if their two new foreign imports settle into the S.League quickly.

Said the Australian, who led Balestier Khalsa to the StarHub League Cup last year: "Mickey will get the job done, and Milo, well, everyone knows how good a player he is.

"It's just about getting him back (from a minor back injury) in time.

"The team's not just them, of course, but if they can combine well with the others, we'll do okay because we've got a good solid team here."

CORE SQUAD

Indeed, the Rams have managed to retain the core of the squad that surprised many with their fluid performances last season.

Veteran shot-stopper Yazid Yasin is still around, as are experienced defenders Rosman Sulaiman and Shahril Alias, Japanese midfield general Atsushi Shimono and livewire South Korean forwards Chang Jo Yoon and Moon Soon Ho.

But Stewart is sweating over the fitness of a number of his players, including Rosman (ankle), Shahril (knee), Jevtic (knee) and Milojevic (back).

"Tactically, we've hardly been able to do anything in pre-season," lamented the coach.

"I don't expect our first four games to go tremendously well because I've not had a full squad at all.

"That'll probably mean we will peak a bit later in the season, which might not be such a bad thing."

Yazid admitted Woodlands were much more fortunate with injuries and suspensions last season, and this contributed to their outstanding season.

"We were lucky because each time, at best, maybe we had one or two players out with injuries or suspensions," said the 34-year-old.

"But, apart from that, I don't think there's too much difference between last year's Woodlands and now.

"Everybody's working hard, and looking forward to the new season.

"It's always difficult to replicate a good season but it's up to the players to do their best and try to achieve it. We want to keep moving forward."

KEY TRANSFERS

In: Milos Jevtic (DF, Serbian, Dorcol Beograd) Stefan Milojevic (FW, Serbian, Geylang), Walid Lounis (DF, Tanjong Pagar)

Out: Cho Sung Hwan (DF, South Korean, released), Theerawekin Seehawong (MF, Thai, released), Shariff Allapitchay (DF, Tampines), Ang Zhi Wei (DF, Tampines)

THE COACH

Darren Stewart left Balestier Khalsa under a cloud of controversy at the end of last season after guiding the club to their first piece of silverware in the professional era, the StarHub League Cup.The former Australia international has never finished in the bottom half of the S.League in his five years as a head coach with Gombak United and then Balestier, and will want to keep that record going this season.

ONE TO WATCH

Yazid Yasin turns 35 in June, but the shot-stopper flings himself about during training as though he were still a teenager. His flying saves contributed greatly to Woodlands' top-half finish last season, and he will be depended upon again to lead from the back.

msazali@sph.com.sg


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