Home United coach Aidil unfazed despite losing star players
Home Utd coach challenges his team to cope without Hassan, Hariss and Plazibat
At star-studded Home United, there were more than enough cards for coach Aidil Sharin to play with this season.
But come 2018, that might change. Having recently lost his first-choice goalkeeper, midfield general and star striker - with a few more players negotiating with other clubs - next season seems a tough one for the 40-year-old coach.
The three departed stars were part of his team's spine - Singapore's No. 1 Hassan Sunny, who rejoined Thai League 2 (T2) club Army United; 38-goal Croatian striker Stipe Plazibat, who signed for Thai side Bangkok Glass; and national vice-captain Hariss Harun, who returned to parent club, Malaysia Super League giants Johor Darul Ta'zim.
They had helped Home achieve a creditable 2017 in which they reached the AFC Cup Asean zone final and finished third in the S.League and RHB Singapore Cup.
However, Aidil draws confidence from a year ago, when star striker Ken Ilso left Home for Kedah.
Said Aidil: "Of course, losing key players is not good for the team, but we have to challenge ourselves to cope without them.
"That being said, I also feel it's a good thing because before Ilso left, there were question marks as to who will be able to replace him. We brought in Stipe and it turned out that Stipe scored more goals.
"Now is a busy period for us because we're talking to players who can replace those key players."
S.League Young Player of the Year nominee Irfan Fandi could also be heading for the exit. The 20-year-old defender is set to undergo trials at English Championship club Leeds United after completing his national service in February next year.
Aidil, however, confirmed that he will retain players such as Song Uiyoung, Faris Ramli, Sirina Camara, Izzdin Shafiq, Khairul Nizam, M. Anumanthan and Rudy Khairullah.
He also said that defender Abdil Qaiyyim, who had undergone trials with T2 side Khonkaen, will stay with the Protectors.
"The Thai team trial was just an invitation, because the head coach is my friend," said Aidil.
"I just wanted to let Abdil feel how it's like to play professionally in Thailand and it's good for him to go there and keep fit during the off-season.
"He's already back in Singapore and will definitely play for us next season."
Having completed his first full season as Home coach, Aidil is delighted to hear about the offers his players have received.
PROUD AND HONOURED
"I'm very proud of the team and it's an honour because our players attracted a lot of interest from overseas clubs.
"Half of the squad, including Izzdin and Amiruldin (Asraf) have got offers, but they choose to stay."
Moving forward, he is excited to see what is in store next season, especially with the S.League's new rules, which stipulate that local clubs, except the Young Lions, have to meet quotas of six Under-23 players and nine U-30 players for a 19-man squad.
He said: "It's not going to be any easier because of the new ruling and requirements, but I'm looking forward to working with the team again, especially with new players coming in."
In keeping faith with their youth development system, Home have promoted three youngsters from their Prime League squad - 21-year-old midfielder Iqram Rifqi, 18-year-old defender Arshad Shamim and 19-year-old goalkeeper Kenji Syed Rusydi.
Aidil said: "Players like Iqram, Kenji and Arshad have been doing very well in the Prime League. They have been training with the senior team and that makes it easier for them to fit in.
"This year, my U-23 players like Irfan played 42 games. Amiruldin played 34 games, and Adam (Swandi) played 36 games. We always give our youngsters a chance to play, as long as they work hard.
"Next season, it's going to be the same because you need to have a balance of youth and experience."