Khairul Amri to give Tanjong Pagar United extra firepower
Ex-national striker hopes to help them to qualify for AFC tournaments at least
Former national striker Khairul Amri was on the verge of hanging up his boots after leaving Malaysian club Felda United a few months ago.
But a phone call from Tanjong Pagar United team manager Noh Alam Shah, his former teammate, changed that.
Within hours of linking up on Dec 14, both parties agreed on a one-season deal as the Jaguars completed their third signing ahead of the new season.
"I was contemplating retirement after my time in Malaysia but, that said, I have always wanted to end my career here. So when Tanjong Pagar showed interest, it all happened quickly," Amri, 35, told The New Paper.
"They have a project and it looks appealing... Also, I have many friends working there and the opportunity to have a post-playing career with the club helped me make the decision," added Amri, who is keen to go into coaching once he calls time on his career.
With the addition of another proven goalscorer, this year's Singapore Premier League (SPL) wooden spoonists have assembled an impressive forward line.
Their arsenal includes Brazilian hitman Luiz Junior and another recruit in Reo Nishiguchi.
Junior, 30, was the club's top scorer last season with seven goals in 14 games in his debut campaign.
Nishiguchi, 23, helped Albirex Niigata to the SPL title earlier this month with five goals and an assist in 11 appearances.
The Jaguars have also snagged Australian midfielder Blake Ricciuto, who scored nine goals en route to Brunei DPMM's title triumph last year.
Amri, who left Felda after they were booted out of the Malaysian league due to financial problems, has had a stellar record at home as well.
He has made over 200 appearances and scored more than 100 goals locally in stints with the Young Lions and Tampines Rovers, with whom he won the league title in 2013.
The only player to score in three Asean Football Federation Championship finals (2004, 2007 and 2012), which Singapore won, Amri was also part of the LionsXII side that clinched the Malaysian FA Cup in 2015.
Last year, he retired from international football, having registered 32 goals in 132 appearances.
Naturally, much is expected of Amri. Jaguars coach Hasrin Jailani, still surprised at capturing Amri's signature, is convinced the veteran will bring experience, expertise and the X-factor to his side.
"We are more than happy, excited to have Amri on board," he said. "Actually, I'm flabbergasted, we didn't think that a player as big as Amri would love to join us.
"We are looking to bank on his experience, expertise with his finishing... the younger players especially stand to benefit.
"Now they have someone whom they can see in action up front, someone local whom they can look up to.
"Another way Amri adds value to our team is through his name. With him in our side, other teams will take notice of us and they will know they can't simply get past us like they did this season."
Hasrin has plans to incorporate all three attackers - Junior, Amri and Nishiguchi - into his starting line-up, but accepts that Amri's minutes will need to be managed given his age.
The quick dealings on the transfer market augur well for the Jaguars, who returned to the SPL only this year, after sitting out the league for five seasons due to financial problems.
But how high can they climb?
Said an ambitious Amri: "We want to win the title. That mentality should be in every footballer, if not better don't play.
"If we can't win the title, then at least qualify for the AFC competitions."
Lofty targets indeed, but the young charges at Tanjong Pagar could possibly have learnt their first lesson from their newest mentor.