Izzdin dreams of another title run
There are many new faces in the LionsXII this season. Sazali Abdul Aziz picks out the names to watch
He was part of the LionsXII team that roared their way to the Malaysian Super League (MSL) title in 2013 under V Sundramoorthy.
After developing a taste for silverware, midfielder Izzdin Shafiq wants to savour success again.
LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad has targeted a top-three finish this season, but some in the local fraternity think that's ambitious considering the team's eighth-place finish last term, but the 24-year-old midfielder (above) believes they can do better.
"I really hope we get the title back. I think we can," said Izzdin.
"This is a young team, the boys are all eager to play and everyone is hungry so when we get a chance, we will play all out. The understanding is also there."
The stocky midfielder played his football last season at S.League club Home United, alongside experienced heads like former Singapore international Noh Rahman and former South Korean midfield star Lee Kwan Woo.
He says the experience with the Protectors has made him a better player.
"At Home United, I really learnt a lot from the senior players," he said.
"My strength has always been my long passes, and the club played a short-passing style, so I learnt to adapt my game.
"Now I know when to play long passes and when to play short passes. The senior players guided me a lot - like when to tackle, when not to. Hopefully, I can apply all that I've learnt this season."
The LionsXII midfield were light and ineffective last term, with Isa Halim and Zulfahmi Arifin struggling with niggling injuries.
While Isa and Zulfahmi are now fit, two other central midfielders - the combative Raihan Rahman (knee) and talented playmaker Shahdan Sulaiman (broken leg) - are ruled out for some time.
Izzdin is confident he can add more punch in the engine room.
"I think I can do the job," he said.
"I feel Isa and I have a good understanding on the pitch and our playing styles complement each other. I can distribute the ball, he is great at winning the ball.
"We make a good combination, so I hope I get the chance to help the team."