Hesse says Young Lions are progressing despite poor season
Garena Young Lions coach Hesse insists his players have improved despite a dismal season
They may be a developmental team, no doubt made up of the country's best and brightest prospects, coming up against seasoned campaigners.
But, even with conservative expectations, it has been a disappointing year for Garena Young Lions.
Effectively the national Under-22 side that will take part in next year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur, the Young Lions lost 19 of their 24 matches to finish bottom of the S.League, 10 points behind the next lowest team Balestier Khalsa.
This has resulted in their suffering the ignominy of becoming the first side to incur a $50,000 penalty, introduced at the end of 2012 for the bottom team who fail to achieve 20 per cent of the total points on offer for the season.
Patrick Hesse may have been at the helm this year, but his French compatriot Richard Tardy has also looked on with great interest, given he will be leading Singapore's SEA Games charge next August.
Although it has been a sorry season for the Young Lions, Tardy believes there are plenty of positives.
"This has been an important season for us in terms of progress," said Tardy, the FAS' head coach of national youth teams.
"As we are the youngest team with an average age of 21.5, it has been an eye-opener for most of the boys, who had only been playing in the Prime League before this.
"Although results were not as expected, we have seen the players improve steadily.
"Faced with more experienced opponents, our players showed good fighting spirit to adapt accordingly to deliver results."
There were a number of bright sparks to emerge from the Young Lions' ranks.
Hami Syahin was a livewire in the first half of the campaign, Rusyaidi Salime nailed down the right-back spot, while Joshua Pereira showed glimpses of quality in midfield, something Tardy believes illustrates that the future is bright.
"Joshua, Hami and Rusyaidi were from the National Football Academy and it shows that we have good and young players coming through," he added.
"Players such as Adam Swandi, Ammirul Adli and Ammirul Emmran - and Irfan Fandi from Home United - are more experienced and, thus, able to set a good example for these younger players to emulate.
"There is definitely potential and I'm positive that these boys will perform better next season as we continue to prepare for the SEA Games."
While there are still over nine months to go before Singapore once again bid to win their first football gold medal at the Games, plans are already afoot to get the Young Lions to Kuala Lumpur in the best possible condition.
Tardy revealed: "We will be training hard for the next S.League season to build up on experience before we set off to Kuala Lumpur.
"Pre-season will be very important as we plan to line up more friendly matches and tournaments, locally and overseas, for the team to gain more exposure and experience.
"We are currently planning to a have a two-week training camp overseas to work on tactics and techniques, and a chance for the boys to focus solely on training as a team.
"I believe this will be a good start to the season to boost their morale."