Baptism of fire for Tanjong Pagar United coach Hairi Su'ap
Tanjong Pagar United coach Hairi Su'ap is having quite the baptism of fire in his first job helming a top-flight club.
He was appointed around a month ago, after the Jaguars' participation in the Singapore Premier League was confirmed.
Tanjong Pagar sat out of the league after the 2014 season, owing to financial problems, and have had to build a squad from scratch.
Hairi, 46, admitted he missed out on most of the top targets from his 40-man shortlist.
While the likes of skipper Faritz Hameed, defender Delwinder Singh and midfielder Raihan Rahman have featured regularly in the SPL, five players in Tanjong Pagar's 20-man squad have never tasted pro football.
Hairi told The New Paper: "We're not trying to take our first steps, we're like a baby still learning how to crawl."
Hairi, who led amateur side Yishun Sentek Mariners to the FA Cup in 2018, is hoping to draw on his playing experience with Singapore Armed Forces FC, now known as Warriors FC.
He is targeting a mid-table finish this time around.
Said Hairi: "If I prepare the team well and if we can maintain our fitness and avoid injuries, we can spring some surprises... Hougang (United), Tampines (Rovers) and Albirex (Niigata) are the teams we want to try and be at the same level as."
Faritz added: "We don't have great depth, so we have to count on everyone to deliver. We have some young guys who have never played professionally but, because of the Under-23 player rule, they have a platform.
"I've told them they have to take this chance because it won't come along again."
One of those players is striker Nashrul Amin, 23, who was a private-hire car driver last year.
He said: "I want to prove all the clubs who didn't give me a chance in the past (were) wrong."