Shahdan in late bid for Lions’ spot
Shahdan's back and is out to convince Sundram he can help at the Suzuki Cup
TAMPINES ROVERS v BALESTIER KHALSA
(Saturday, 7.30pm, Jurong West Stadium)
He came on in the 73rd minute against the Garena Young Lions last Saturday and, while there were no goals or assists, it was not difficult to see exactly what Tampines Rovers have been missing this season.
Shahdan Sulaiman looked cool under pressure, pinging sweet passes across the Jalan Besar Stadium pitch, and even threaded a few through the heart of the Young Lions defence, as the Stags ran out 3-1 winners.
The 28-year-old has been plagued by injury since breaking his foot in 2014.
Shockingly, it occurred twice more this year and last Saturday's match marked his return from the latest injury setback.
Shahdan is poised to get more game time when the Stags line up against Balestier Khalsa on Saturday, and the attacking midfielder is already itching to become part of V Sundramoorthy's national squad.
"I very much want to get back into the national team, I really miss it, I haven't really been in the team for about two years now, but it's up to Sundram if he thinks I deserve a call up," Shahdan told The New Paper yesterday.
"I can't say that I felt match fit when I played the last game - I know I'm not there yet. I've been running a lot off the pitch, but that's not the same."
"But the Young Lions game was okay, I felt that my touches were alright - not that bad after being out of the game for so long," he added, laughing.
Tampines coach Akbar Nawas believes the midfielder can still bring something to the table when the Lions compete in the AFF Suzuki Cup (Nov 19 to Dec 17).
"He did very well for someone who has been out for so long," said Akbar.
"Shahdan has quality in terms of positional play, especially in terms of making forward passes in the attacking third - we see so many midfielders make sideways passes, and he's one of only a few players in Singapore who threads a forward pass well.
"Physically I'm not sure if he can be fully fit in time for the Suzuki Cup - it will be tough - but I'm sure he can play some part."
Akbar revealed that he had initially wanted to give Shahdan more than the 20 minutes he got on the pitch last week.
Even though fitness is a concern, he is confident Shahdan will be able to work through it.
Said the Tampines coach: "If fitness is a concern (for the national team), he can work with the fitness coach to see how he can get back up to a good level, and I think they should do that because he brings a different dimension to the game when he comes on.
"So far in training, he's looked good, much better than when he was coming back from a similar injury the last time."
Shahdan hopes the dark days of convalescence are over, although he has not forgotten how difficult it was.
He said: "It is a long hard road back when you get injured, and it hasn't been a very good time for me, especially after back-to-back injuries like I've suffered.
"I broke it again after just 45 minutes in my first match back (in July). But I'm glad I got to spend more time with my family, they've really helped me through this time.
"I'm excited and really happy to be back on the field."
We see so many midfielders make sideways passes, and he’s one of only a few players in Singapore who threads a forward pass well.
- Tampines coach Akbar Nawas (above) on Shahdan Sulaiman