Shahril out to prove his worth to Sundram
Lions skipper vows to force his way into coach Sundram's plans
The sun had just set when Singapore football coach V Sundramoorthy ended the training session at the Geylang Field yesterday.
One familiar face was all smiles.
Shahril Ishak was happy just to be back.
A knee injury had consigned him to the sidelines for two months and he returned to action only three weeks ago.
Fit and raring to go, the 32-year-old Singapore skipper wants his starting spot back when the Lions take on Bahrain in a friendly on Friday morning (Singapore time).
The Johor Darul Ta'zim II player told The New Paper yesterday: "I am gunning for that spot in the first 11.
"It's ultimately up to the coach's decision and I will support it a 100 per cent.
"It doesn't matter if we are on the field or on the bench, I believe that we will support each other with our hearts regardless.
"I have been training hard and I know that if I do my best on the field, I will eventually be back in the first 11."
Shahril's last start for Singapore came under Sundram's predecessor Bernd Stange, during a 2-1 defeat by Afghanistan in a World Cup qualifier in March.
His only national team appearance with Sundram in charge came against Vietnam in the Aya Bank Cup in June, when he came on as a 73rd-minute substitute in a 3-0 reverse.
But he feels he still has plenty to offer. With 129 international appearances under his belt, the attacking midfielder is the Republic's most-capped player.
The delightful touches that made him one of the most-feared players in South-east Asia have not deserted the three-time Suzuki Cup winner, as evident during the training session yesterday.
And with Singapore's first-choice striker Fazrul Nawaz sidelined for the next six to seven months because of an anterior cruciate ligament tear, Sundram is going to need all the firepower he can get from every player.
And the 50-year-old former Singapore striker knows Shahril well enough to know that he still has what it takes to reinstall himself as a key member of the team.
When Sundram led the now-defunct LionsXII to the 2013 Malaysia Super League title, Shahril was his team's top scorer with 14 goals during the campaign.
"Shahril definitely stands a chance of making the team," said Sundram.
"He is an experienced player and his experience will be a key asset to the team.
"We believe that he still has what it takes to turn games around, just like how he did in 2013."
The Lions today head to Manama, the capital of Bahrain, hoping to shake off a run of poor results.
Sundram began his stint as national coach with a 1-0 win over Myanmar in the Aya Bank Cup in June, but the Lions have since lost their last four games - 3-0 to Vietnam, 3-2 to the Niigata University of Health and Welfare team, 3-0 to J-League outfit Albirex Niigata and 2-1 to Cambodia.
Shahril expects a tough outing against Bahrain, who are ranked 125th in the Fifa world rankings, 33 places above Singapore.
He said: "It's not going to be an easy game for us in Bahrain but, at the end of the day, it will be a good test for us ahead of the AFF Suzuki Cup."
"The team want to do well on the field and, of course, we will try to get a good result when we are there, but the most important thing to us is the Suzuki Cup."
Singapore are grouped with Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia in Group A of the Suzuki Cup, which starts in November.