Amri's two big goals for final third of season
Amri rallies Singapore hopefuls to finish S.League season strong; eyes Suzuki Cup flourish again
GARENA YOUNG LIONS v HOUGANG UNITED
(Tomorrow, 7.45pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
There is little doubt that Khairul Amri has been one of Singapore's top strikers over the last decade.
He has made a habit of starring in the AFF Suzuki Cup, scoring in three editions of the tournament's finals - in 2005, 2007 and 2012 - and helping Singapore lift the Asean title on each occasion.
He is a man for the big occasion and tough situations, but 2016 has thrown him a completely different sort of challenge.
Amri was charged to lead a group of footballers still learning their trade at Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League side, Garena Young Lions, but has struggled to stay injury free, watching on in frustration as his teammates faced one defeat after another.
As the Young Lions line up against Hougang United at the Jalan Besar Stadium tomorrow, Amri is back, and looking to the Suzuki Cup again as a highlight to what has been a frustrating season.
"It has not been a good year. My season has been interrupted by injuries, but I feel like slowly, I'm coming back," said the 31-year-old.
After returning from a two-month absence though injury, he scored in his team's 5-2 loss to Warriors FC on Aug 28.
"I think all of Singapore can see that when I play with the Young Lions, I get angry, and I'm very vocal on the pitch. I can't lie - I want to send a message to the boys that we can be better.
"The Suzuki Cup is, of course, a driving force for me. The national set-up feels great and I want to continue to be part of that - not only to be there, but also to be fit, sharp and ready for the team.
"And that has to start with playing well for the Young Lions."
The Young Lions are rooted at the bottom of the nine-team S.League table, having won just twice in 20 attempts.
They have conceded 55 goals - 20 more than the next worst defensive team in the league, Warriors FC.
They have only nine points, five behind eighth-placed Balestier Khalsa, with just four games left to play.
The Young Lions are effectively the national Under-21 team, boosted by a couple of senior players like former LionsXII duo, Amri and Firdaus Kasman.
They are gearing up for next year's SEA Games, and the going has been tough.
But Amri insists that this team just need time.
"It's definitely frustrating for me, because it's hard going into every game knowing it will be difficult. But, don't get me wrong, before each game we still go into it thinking that we can win," he said.
"If you've seen the team - and I've told the coach this too - you never really know what you're going to get from these boys, because some days we play great, and some days we are so poor and get trashed.
"Training with the Young Lions has been great, but translating what goes on in training to the match hasn't been good - it takes time."
But, even in the struggle, some Young Lions players have caught the eye of the football fraternity.
Hami Syahin, Joshua Pereira and Ryan Syaffiq have shown glimpses of their ability and, while he declined to reveal names, Amri believes some of his teammates will go far.
"They are definitely learning, and there are a few players who will continue to play in the S.League, and maybe even get a call-up to the national team.
"It's been tough, but we have to give time to these boys," he reiterated.
While the youngsters around him mull long careers, veteran Amri is very much focused on the now.
He wants the Young Lions to finish on a high, before he turns his attention to what has become his favourite tournament - the 2016 Suzuki Cup.
He said: "My target is to get at least one win in these last four games, and why not do it (tomorrow) against Hougang?"