AFC Cup draw: Warriors FC have it tough with 3 away games
It may be a long shot for his team to overcome three away play-off hurdles to qualify for the main draw of the AFC Champions League, but Warriors FC coach Alex Weaver is not about to throw in the towel just yet.
After yesterday's draw, the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League champions will take on Myanmar's Yadanarbon in the first play-off round on Feb 4.
If the Warriors prevail, they will then take on China's Guangzhou R&F on Feb 10, before a third opponent, Australia's Central Coast Mariners, await on Feb 17.
"To be honest, we don't know much about our opponents from Myanmar, and we have got to start studying them now," said Weaver.
"We want to make sure they are worried about us. With the players and spirit we have got, we hope to do well in the AFC Champions League, even if we have a tough challenge ahead of us with these clubs from Myanmar, China and Australia."
The Warriors last tasted AFC Champions League action in 2010, when they collected their first-ever win in the competition with a 2-1 victory over China's Henan Jianye en route to finishing third in their group, the best finish by any Singaporean side.
Should the Warriors fall at any point in the AFC Champions League play-offs, they will then play in the AFC Cup, where they are drawn with Indonesia's Persipura Jayapura in Group E, along with India's Bengaluru or Maziya from the Maldives or Ceres from the Philippines - only two out of the three latter three teams will make up the rest of the group.
To maintain stability, Weaver has retained all five of his imports - Marin Vidosevic, Thomas Beattie, Kevin McCann, Miroslav Pejic and Nicolas Velez - from last season, while adding local players such as Syaqir Sulaiman, Fazli Jaffar, Emmeric Ong, Marcus Wheeler and Daniel Ong.
But Weaver's immediate priority is to look for a first-choice goalkeeper after losing Singapore No. 1 Hassan Sunny to Tampines Rovers.
"Trying to retain our S.League title will be paramount and anything in the AFC competitions will be a bonus, but my players will be up to the challenge." said the Englishman.
"If we end up in the AFC Cup, we want to do one better than the local teams in the previous editions and aim to progress from the group stage."
Last season, Tampines and Home United both crashed out of the group stages.
Meanwhile, RHB Singapore Cup winners Balestier Khalsa find themselves drawn with Hong Kong's Kitchee or Sun Pegasus, Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim or Selangor and India's East Bengal.
Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic said: "It's a tough draw. I was very impressed with Kitchee, who beat Tampines twice earlier this year.
"I'm not sure about the team from India, but the football there has improved a lot. And there's really nothing more to talk about JDT because they are a great team.
"But we are professionals and we will go into this competition trying to win.
"These are exciting times for the club because it's the first time we are playing in the AFC Cup and we want to give a good account of ourselves."
Lee to learn from coaches in England
Aspiring coach Gavin Lee will be living the dream as he embarks on a three-week trip to the United Kingdom on Monday to observe top coaches from Cardiff City, Crewe Alexandra and Liverpool.
The final-year Nanyang Technological University sports science undergraduate has a C licence in coaching and worked as an intern under S.League champions Warriors FC coach Alex Weaver last season.
"Coach Alex Weaver passed me his contacts and I arranged for the trip," said the 24-year-old.
"I want to observe and learn from the coaching practices, in terms of styles and technology, from these top clubs and improve as a coach.
"I was from the National Football Academy until the Under-16s and stopped playing because of studies. But I still love the sport and the interaction with players I get from coaching."
Weaver said on his Facebook page: "The lad has worked hard and saved up to pay for the trip himself. Bright and driven enough to learn, he's studying the world's game and he's thinking like a 'globally aware' coach."
- DAVID LEE