Albirex and DPMM out to send a message
Much-changed Albirex and DPMM determined to send a message to league rivals
GREAT EASTERN COMMUNITY SHIELD
ALBIREX NIIGATA v BRUNEI DPMM
(Tonight, 7.30pm, StarHub TV Ch 112 & 205)
The naysayers have cast their doubts.
After sweeping all the domestic silverware on offer last season, will Brunei DPMM and Albirex Niigata still rule local football again?
After all, both teams have undergone key changes in the close season.
As part of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League's new rule in cutting down the number of foreign players from five to three, league champions DPMM have been forced to part with Bosnian defender Boris Raspudic and Irish midfielder Joe Gamble.
RHB Singapore Cup and The New Paper League Cup winners Albirex, meanwhile, have parted company with head coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama, and only seven players from last year's successful squad have been retained.
Both teams have a chance to show they still mean business this season, when they kick off the S.League season in the Great Eastern Community Shield match - which will double up as a competitive fixture - at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.
DPMM coach Steve Kean told The New Paper that replacing Raspudic and Gamble would be difficult, but insisted his side were still "the team to beat" this season.
And he is confident his team can see off the White Swans tonight.
"You always try to win in your first game, and it's always tough playing against Albirex," said the Scot, who previously managed Blackburn Rovers in the English Premier League.
"They are one of the teams in the S.League I have a lot of respect for, because of the way they try to play their football.
"But I'm sure they're more worried about us than we are about them.
"We'll just go and play the way we like to play. Like I said before, this squad have been together for a while and we're a very tight-knit squad."
Despite the departure of Raspudic and Gamble, Kean can still count on the talented attacking trident of Portuguese attacker Paulo Sergio, local boy Azwan Ali and last term's top-scorer, Brazilian Rafael Ramazotti.
The trio combined for 35 goals last season - a tally that betters the total mustered by Albirex (27), Hougang United (28), Harimau Muda (29) and the Garena Young Lions (30).
Albirex's miserable record in the scoring stats is something that new head coach Naoki Naruo has tried to fix with a combination of J.League talent and S.League experience.
He has signed 1.90m-tall targetman Kazuki Mine from second-tier Japanese side Kyoto Sanga, and brought back winger Tatsuro Inui, who scored 20 goals over two seasons with Albirex in 2012 and 2013, but spent the last three years at S.League clubs Warriors FC and Geylang International.
Said Naruo: "My philosophy is to get the most out of the strengths of my individual players, and play possession football.
"I also want my players to show hard work everywhere on the field, be it defending or attacking."
The 41-year-old, who coached Albirex to a seventh-placed S.League finish in 2009, is targeting a win tonight.
"We are a very young team, so confidence is a very important factor for us," said Naruo.
"Winning this tough game will put us in a good position confidence-wise. DPMM will be very tough opponents, but my message to my players is to just believe in ourselves, do our best and we can get the result we want."
StarHub is S.League official broadcaster
Cable providers StarHub yesterday announced its partnership with the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League as official broadcaster.
In addition to live coverage on free sports channel SuperSports Arena (StarHub TV Ch 112/205), StarHub said in a media release it will help raise the profile of the league through the reach of its marketing campaigns, pay TV network and social media platforms.
Powered by production partner Astro Arena, StarHub's coverage of the S.League will kick off with tonight's Great Eastern Community Shield.
StarHub TV customers can view the SuperSports Arena channel on multiple devices such as TVs, smartphones, tablets and laptops.
Non-StarHub TV customers can access the channel by hooking their TVs to a cable point and tuning in to 76.25MHz.
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ