Stags' assassin eyes Albirex's scalp
Tampines' South Korean signing shows killer touch as a box-to-box midfielder
|ALBIREX NIIGATA||TAMPINES ROVERS|
You can call him Tampines Rovers' "Smiling Assassin".
Son Yong Chan, the Stags' new South Korean midfielder, is rarely seen without a big grin on his face.
Even during the customary pre-match team photo, where some players put their game faces on, you will find him gleefully flashing his pearly whites.
On his competitive debut for Tampines, Son demonstrated his killer touch, too.
Making a perfectly timed run into the penalty box, the 25-year-old headed the Stags into the lead in their AFC Cup Group G game against Malaysian side Felda United at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Tuesday.
Tampines went on to win 2-1.
THE COACH SAYS: After Albirex won all four titles last year, I say it is time to change. We want to have a style that people can recognise even if we play without names or badges on our shirts.Tampines Rovers coach Juergen Raab
Ahead of Tampines' Great Eastern Community Shield clash with Albirex Niigata at the National Stadium tomorrow, Son told The New Paper that it is in his nature to look at the bright side of things.
"I always try to think positively... You could even say smiling is my hobby," he said with a smile.
"Before matches, I always have a big smile, that's because I want to enjoy the game. I don't want to be too serious and stress myself out."
Son forged a reputation as a "utility man" while playing for Philippine side Ceres Negros from 2014 to 2016.
He chuckled while recalling the three times he played against Tampines - twice in the AFC Cup and once in the RHB Singapore Cup.
He played in a different position in each encounter.
"I played left back in one game to mark Jermaine Pennant, then I played right back in another to mark Jordan Webb," said Son.
"The third time, I had to play centre back because we didn't have enough central defenders because of injuries."
When he joined Tampines, coach Juergen Raab used him as one of two box-to-box midfielders in a 3-4-3 formation, and the combative player is revelling in his new role.
"I really enjoy my new role," said Son. "It's more difficult and more tiring.
"But I can do many more things, instead of just waiting for the ball to come to me as a defender or defensive midfielder."
Raab, who took over the reins from Akbar Nawas in a surprise move by the club three weeks ago, said Son has the attributes to excel in his current role.
"Son has good fitness, and he shows it over 90 minutes," said the German. "In this role, he knows he cannot just put in the challenges.
"He has to look forward, create chances and help the attack, like how he did against Felda."
Son is determined to make an impact against Albirex tomorrow in a match which doubles up as the first game of the 2017 Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League season.
He is used to playing in front of crowds - he says over 10,000 fans regularly attend Ceres' home games - so he is looking forward to strutting his stuff on the pitch at the cavernous National Stadium.
He has set himself a target of 10 goals this season, but his main goal is to help the Stags win the S.League title.
Three points against the defending champions tomorrow would be the perfect start.
"I won league titles with Ceres in 2014 and 2015 and it was a great feeling, and I want to help Tampines do the same with the S.League," said Son.
"Hopefully, the fans will come down in numbers.
"That would be great motivation for us."
Tickets for tomorrow’s Great Eastern Community Shield are priced at $4 (excluding $1 booking fee) and are available from www.sportshubtix.com, the Sports Hub Box Office, SingPost outlets and the Sports Hub hotline (3158 7888).
Entry is free for youths aged 12 and below, and senior citizens aged 60 and above. Those eligible for free tickets should redeem them from the Football Fanzone located at the OCBC Square from 2pm to 6pm, upon presentation of their IC.