Best is yet to be for Tampines Rovers' new striker Boris Kopitovic
Stags' new striker has 5 goals in 5 games, but assistant coach Fahrudin says there's more to come
Tampines Rovers' new foreign striker Boris Kopitovic has hit the ground running, scoring five goals in as many games.
The 24-year-old Montenegrin forward has impressed with his sizzling form, but Stags' assistant coach Mustafic Fahrudin warned that this is just the beginning.
Fahrudin told The New Paper: "Kopitovic is only starting to settle.
"I know how difficult it is to come into a country so far away, not speaking the language, adapting to the weather, the food and the people here.
"There is much more to come from him once he is truly settled here. He will score goals for us, I'm sure."
Fahrudin, who came fro m Serbia to play in the local league in 2002, becoming a Singapore citizen three years later, got to know the player on the recommendation of his friends.
Kopitovic, who turned out for Montenegrin club OFK Petrovac last year, believes the Stags' style suits him perfectly.
Speaking through translator Mustafic, Kopitovic said: "When they approached me, I looked at videos and I saw that they were playing really attacking football.
"They created so many chances and, as a forward, you know you are always going to get a chance in this team. So, I am excited to be playing here."
While it was clear that Tampines, under coach Gavin Lee, played the most eye-catching football in last year's Singapore Premier League (SPL), performances did not always translate to results.
The situation wasn't helped when veteran striker Khairul Amri moved to Malaysian Super League side Felda United midway through the season.
The Stags eventually finished second in the SPL, behind Brunei DPMM, but bounced back to win the Singapore Cup.
Kopitovic was signed to bang in the goals, but there's more to his repertoire than just scoring, said Lee.
"We are confident that he can contribute to us, not just in terms of goals but also how we play," added the Stags coach.
"We are not in the era where we sign a striker just to score goals any more.
"You can tell that he is tidy not just in the box. He is a very good finisher, but what people don't realise yet is his off-the-ball work rate.
"He can hold up the ball. He may look like a typical big forward, but let's just say I didn't sign him to hold up play."
It might be early days yet, but Kopitovic could revive the Stags' affinity for players from the Balkan region.
Fahrudin, along with Mirko Grabovac (Croatia) and Sead Muratovic (Serbia), were key players of the side that won Tampines' first league titles in 2004 and 2005, when the SPL was known as the S-League.
When the Stags clinched the league title again from 2011 to 2013, there was also a strong Balkan influence with Fahrudin and Bosnian-born Aleksandar Duric featuring prominently.
Said Kopitovic: "I know he (Fahrudin) is a legend here and yes, I know everything about them. Even Duric.
"I have watched videos and read on the Internet, so I do know the history.
"But I have to be realistic and realise that this is my first year in Singapore and I must take everything step by step...I must settle down and help this club as much as I can in my first season.
"If I can even follow a little bit of what they have done, that would be fantastic for me and everyone here.
"But that's maybe too quick to think about for now."
Well, a goal a game will do.
Tampines Rovers' fact file
Coach: Gavin Lee
Homeground: Our Tampines Hub Major transfers:
IN - Boris Kopitovic (FW, from OFK Petrovac), Kyoga Nakamura (MF, Albirex Niigata), Huzaifah Aziz (MF, Balestier Khalsa), Syahrul Sazali (DF, Young Lions)
OUT - Shahdan Sulaiman (MF, to Lion City Sailors), Zulfadhmi Suzliman (MF, Balestier Khalsa), Ryutaro Megumi (FW, Felda United)
Last season: 2nd
Outlook: If Gavin Lee can keep most of his squad fit, this could be a successful season for a side with a good balance of experience and youth. But, with competitions on four fronts, the Stags' league form could take a hit. Look out for Zehrudin Mehmedovic to have a breakout year.
NEXT 3 GAMES
- v Hougang United (AIA Community Shield, Jalan Besar Stadium)
Feb 26 (7pm)
- v Kaya-Iloilo FC (AFC Cup, Manila)
March 1 (5.30pm)
- v Balestier Khalsa (SPL, Our Tampines Hub)