Ambitious Albirex target another clean sweep
Despite losing coach and 80 per cent of their players, White Swans target another clean sweep
A new coach, a new-look squad, and Albirex Niigata are still targeting a repeat of their clean sweep of all four titles next season.
At the White Swans' post-season appreciation party at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night, Albirex chairman Daisuke Korenaga told The New Paper: "Win everything. Why not?
"After winning four titles, I realised that results are important because we now have everyone's attention.
"I still don't know how to top what we have achieved last season, but we will find a way."
Next week, Korenaga will travel to Japan to scout for a coach to replace S.League Coach of the Year Naoki Naruo, as well as more than 20 players for his next squad.
While skipper and goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa will remain to impart vital knowledge and experience, Player of the Year and club top scorer Atsushi Kawata, who netted 13 league goals last season, will seek greener pastures.
Korenaga added: "We wanted to keep Naruo, but he wanted to return to Japan to be closer to his family.
"He has our blessings and we thank him for being part of a very special season."
The 42-year-old's achievement of winning the Community Shield, The New Paper League Cup, S.League and RHB Singapore Cup in the same year is unprecedented.
Naruo said: "When I was approached in December last year to be the head coach again... It was apparent to me that the target was to win the league title, which has been elusive to the club.
"It was a very clear objective and an attractive proposition for me.
"I told myself that I cannot afford to fail again at this second bite at the cherry. We learnt through our failures and corrected our mistakes to make our march towards success.
"The result was an astounding clean sweep of four titles. The club took 13 years to get to where they want to be, that is, at the top.
"There were many pains and tribulations to get to the top. I was lucky enough to be the person who helped to make the final push up the peak.
"I'm happy to see the club win and grow as a team, and maybe one day, when my children (two daughters, nine and seven, and a five-year-old son) grow up, I will come back to coach in the S.League again."
Meanwhile, Korenaga also announced the formation of the Albirex Sports Development Fund, which is set up to sponsor an annual week-long football exchange programme for two Singaporean youths with their parent club in Niigata.
"We have a responsibility to the Singapore football scene to have a positive effect," he said.
"Singapore have accepted us, so we have to give back to Singapore football."