Sports

Ljubojevic wants to enjoy himself ALL SET TO ROCK 'N' ROLL

By his own admission, Balestier Khalsa's new hitman Goran Ljubojevic has not enjoyed his football for the last four years.

A knee injury while at Belgian side Genk in 2007 curtailed his chances of playing for Europe's top clubs. Since then, the 30-year-old (above) has played for mid-table teams in the top flight in Switzerland, Romania, Sweden and his native Croatia.

These teams were "too defensive", according to Ljubojevic (pronounced Loo-boh-yer-vick), who finds no joy holding the ball up in the opponents' half with little support from teammates. He hopes this will change with Balestier.

"Marko (Kraljevic, Balestier coach) told me he wants to build an attacking team that can challenge for the S.League title," Ljubojevic said. "And, since I've arrived here, I can see we have good, quick wingers.

"As a classic penalty-box striker, I depend a lot on my teammates, and I hope this means I will enjoy myself and score goals this season."

Kraljevic certainly believes his new hitman can do it - he has set him a bold 20-goal target.

No more Irish luck: O'Donovan

He thought he had hit the big-time when English Premier League side Sunderland came calling in 2007.

But, Roy O' Donovan made just 17 league apperances for the Black Cats in four seasons, and found himself shipped out on loan to lower-division English sides.

Most recently at fourth-tier team Northampton Town, the 28-year-old Irish forward (above) decided to take up Brunei DPMM's offer and join ex-Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean halfway around the world in the S.League.

Calling the move an "exciting adventure", O'Donovan told the Irish Mirror he hopes the change of scenery will help him get back to his best.

"(All) the players speak great English, the manager obviously does, the facilities are superb and the club are well supported," he said."It should also suit my style of football as it's all played on the ground.

"I've been dreadfully unlucky with injuries and also with managers who had faith in me losing their jobs at important junctures in my career. Hopefully that changes in Brunei with 
Steve Kean."

Mrdakovic: My best is yet to come

Unlike Balestier Khalsa's Goran Ljubojevic and Brunei DPMM's Roy O' Donovan, new Tampines Rovers star Miljan Mrdakovic has already made his competitive debut for his new club.

The 31-year-old (above) even scored in the Stags' 2-1 Asian Champions League qualifier defeat by Hong Kong side South China on Feb 2.

His overall performance left much to be desired and he was sent off in extra-time after picking up two silly bookings.

The former Serbia Olympic striker admitted he struggled to cope with the heat and humidity.

"I was happy to score, but I wasn't satisfied with my performance," Mrdakovic (Mer-da-ko-vich) told TNP.

"I'm not making excuses but the weather conditions are difficult to get used to.

"I know everyone expects a lot of me and I want to give my best.

"I just ask for a little bit more time before the S.League can see the real Miljan."

He will get the chance tonight, when Tampines take on Home United in the season's opener.

Go ber-Zerka, Woo the fans

shamiro@sph.com.sg

One bagged the S.League Player of the Year award, the other won the hearts of fans with his team-first mentality and cool finishing.

Home United's Lee Kwan Woo and Tanjong Pagar United forward Monsef Zerka were the brightest marquee signings last season, and they are determined to avoid falling flat in their second season in Singapore football.

"The first season in the league is about discovery: Learning what the style of football is in Singapore and adapting to that," said former Moroccan international, Zerka, who is aware of the pitfalls that await players in their second season at a new club.

"I now know what I can't do and I have to change, but defenders in the league also know how I play."

"Maybe I'll score less but give more assists, but none of that really matters because my target is still the same as it was last year - to help the team achieve good results," added the 32-year-old, who helped Tanjong Pagar finish sixth with 36 points, 15 behind second-placed Home.

The marquee player scheme allows each club to sign a star who is not subject to the S.League's $10,000-a-month salary cap.

Zerka and Lee bagged 12 goals each last year, but the South Korean added a RHB Singapore Cup winner's medal - beating Zerka's Jaguars 4-1 in the final - to his Player of the Year gong. He is looking to better that this season.

"I am expecting a much tougher competition this year, there will be players who are better prepared as well as unknown new signings from other clubs that we have yet to face," said Lee, 35.

"I hope to win the S.League title with Home and progress as far as possible in the AFC Cup."

Home qualified for the second-tier Asian competition by winning the RHB Singapore Cup.

ALONE

Away from football, Zerka is facing a personal challenge of his own.

He will not have his wife and four-year-old twin daughters to go home to after training at the Queenstown Stadium.

Zerka's daughters are enrolled in a school in France and his family will fly here only during their school holidays. But his difficult personal situation could become one that the club benefit from.

"Last year, my family was here and I could focus on my football. In a way, perhaps I can concentrate on football as well this year because I won't have anything else to do as they won't be around," he said.

His positive outlook is shared by former Suwon Bluewings player, Lee.

"Perhaps the only regret I have from last year was not being able to win the S.League title with Home," he said.

"I think I am getting better with every match and I will continue to do my best and help Home win as many trophies as possible."