Ken he do it?
Home United star Ilso hopes to finally win the Player of the Year award
BALESTIER KHALSA v HOME UNITED
(Tomorrow, 7.30pm, Toa Payoh Stadium)
In his S.League debut season last year, Home United star Ken Ilso plundered 11 goals in 18 games.
Even though the former Bundesliga forward's season was punctuated by injury because of which he played in just two-thirds of the Protectors' league matches, he was nominated for the S.League Player of the Year award.
The gong eventually went to Albirex Niigata playmaker Fumiya Kogure and, with Albirex on course for an unprecedented quadruple this season, there is a case for one of their players - like striker Atsushi Kawata, playmaker Masaya Jitozono or marauding left back Naofumi Tanaka - to nab the award again.
But Ilso has had another outstanding season and, after scoring 16 goals in 20 matches, is once again in the running for the S.League's Player of the Year Award.
Speaking to The New Paper at the Bishan Stadium yesterday, the 29-year-old said: "It was already an honour last year being shortlisted for the award. And it'll be nice if I'm considered again this year.
"I believe a foreign player should help to raise the level of the league he is playing in. If I win, it would mean I did my part in helping to raise Singapore football a bit."
His coach, Aidil Shahrin, has no doubt Ilso has done enough to deserve the nomination.
"Definitely," answered Aidil.
"He contributes more than just goals to the team. He also contributes assists and always encourages the team on the pitch."
Ilso has scored five goals in his last five games and scored in seven consecutive games from April 15 to June 18.
A big part of his success is his telepathic understanding with Home's chief creator Azhar Sairudin, who has enjoyed a resurgence of his own, earning a first national team call-up in June.
Ilso, the former Fortuna Dusseldorf, Bochum and Heerenveen man, is the first to acknowledge his teammate as a part of his successes.
He said: "We can see, for example, how in my second year playing with Azhar, he has provided me many assists.
"Since Azhar has taken over that (playmaker) role, I have freedom in my movement.
"That's why this year I've scored more even though I've played a lot on the left wing."
With just three games left to the season, Home are fifth and in the race for a fourth-placed finish, which would secure a berth in the AFC Cup next season as they would finish the second-highest local team.
Asked if he would have a dilemma picking between winning Player of the Year award and an AFC Cup spot for Home, Ilso said: "No. I would take the AFC Cup slot straightaway.
"It's a big goal for the club and one of the big reasons I extended my contract last year - to help the club reach the AFC Cup and try to win things."