Eagles aim to give wings to youngsters
Geylang Int'l a new-look side, retaining only 3 players
Geylang International, who finished fourth in this year's nine-team S.League, will have a new look next season.
The Bedok-based team have released the bulk of their squad, retaining only three players - strikers Shawal Anuar, Darren Teh and defender Anders Aplin.
Established names such as goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari (Tampines Rovers), defender Faritz Hameed (Home United) and winger Gabriel Quak (Warriors FC) have left.
Coming in are new signings such as goalkeeper Basil Chan (Warriors), defenders Jufri Taha (Tampines) and Zulfadli Zainal Abidin (Warriors) and midfielder Azhar Sairudin (Hougang United).
Making up the bulk of the new squad are little-known players, as coach Noor Ali has stuck to his belief of giving raw diamonds a chance to shine.
The 42-year-old, who made his S.League debut at the age of 20, has promoted seven Prime League players, some as young as 18 years old.
Said Noor Ali: "A lot of these boys are doing well in the Prime League, but they are not given a chance at a higher level.
"Most of the time, they are just forgotten after they play one or two games. So if we want to focus on youth development, then we must give them a chance to prove themselves."
A lot of these boys are doing well in the Prime League,but they are not given a chance at a higher level.Geylang International coach Noor Ali on promoting seven Prime League players
To be sure, Noor Ali is one who walks the talk.
In a TNP League Cup match in July, he unleashed Prime League striker Ifwat Ismail as a half-time substitute against Tampines and, in just 32 minutes, the 20-year-old fired a hat-trick as the Eagles won 4-1 to advance to the semi-finals.
TALENTS FROM NFL
Drawing confidence from Ifwat's stellar performance, Noor Ali added: "If we look at Ifwat, I don't think anyone knew him. But when he was given a chance, he just went out there and proved himself.
"And in just six months, he's gone to the Young Lions."
Noor Ali has also turned to the amateur National Football League again, after earlier successes with Shawal and Anders.
This time, he has signed midfielder Ryson Yap from Police SA and Fuad Ramli from Safsa.
He said: "We have proven with Anders and Shawal, who were from NFL and they are in the national team now. So it's just about giving them a chance and playing time to boost their confidence."
The Eagles have yet to fill their foreign quota, and Noor Ali is not ruling out the return of defender Yuki Ichikawa and striker Victor Coto.
He admits that his plan to mould talents from scratch may take time to bear fruit.
But with a long-term goal in mind, he said: "Maybe it will take three to five years before we win something, or for the team to start doing well. But it's worth the gamble because the S.League is moving that way with youth development."