Warriors' teen trio tipped for the S.League
Warriors veteran coach Lee Bee Seng picks three members of their FA Cup-winning team to look out for
The Warriors FC's Prime League team might be one of the youngest sides in the Under-21 reserve league.
But last Sunday, they edged out more experienced opponents from National Football League (NFL) side Yishun Sentek Mariners 2-1 in the Singapore Pools FA Cup final.
The Mariners, who are leading NFL Division One, featured several former S.League campaigners.
With their Cup-winning performances, the Young Warriors have taken a step closer towards joining the likes of national-team centurions Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan in the Warriors' Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League side.
Lee Bee Seng, Warriors' S.League goalkeeper coach and assistant to Prime League head coach Efendi Rahmat, singles out three youngsters who look set for the breakthrough.
MUKUNDAN MARAN, 19
Despite his tender age, Mukundan already stands at an impressive 1.86m.
That's just one centimetre shorter than former national goalkeeping great Lionel Lewis.
Former national goalkeeper coach Lee, who groomed Lewis into one of Asia's top goalkeepers in the mid-2000s, believes his newest protege has all the tools for success.
"Mukun is a good boy, very humble, and has a very good attitude," said Lee.
"He has the height, has good kicking ability and is very committed. He's very keen to learn and, if he continues to work hard, he can go far.
"I would say we reached the FA Cup final because of him. In the semi-final against Home United, he played very well and in an earlier game against Balestier, he made a crucial penalty save."
In July, Mukundan made his first-team debut when he played in a TNP League Cup group stage game - against last year's quadruple winners Albirex Niigata, no less.
The Warriors lost 2-0, and the inexperienced custodian perhaps left the field feeling he could have done better for both goals.
Said Lee: "Mukun still has to work more on his game situation (awareness).
"We will try to push him into the S.League squad next year so that he has more chances to play (senior) football, because right now what he needs is exposure."
DANIEL SHAFIQ, 18
A product of the National Football Academy, Daniel Shafiq is the Young Warriors' defensive lynchpin.
The centre back, who turns 19 later this month, showed in the FA Cup final he was useful at the other end of the pitch too, popping up in the 45th minute to score what proved to be the winner.
Daniel ghosted in at the backpost to get on the end of a deep free-kick, and launched himself at the ball with a diving header to put his side 2-0 up.
Said Lee: "Daniel plays a big role for us at the back.
"The same as Mukun, he is very committed and disciplined, and also very hardworking.
"He's also strong and very quick, and has a lot of desire when he plays."
DANIAL ZULKIFLI, 18
Already on the fringes of the first team, the pacy Danial can play as a striker or wide forward.
The 18-year-old has been invited to train with the S.League squad a few times, and also called up to the national Under-20 squad coached by local legend Fandi Ahmad.
In the FA Cup final, however, he was left on the bench for tactical reasons.
"We saved him for the second half and he did a decent job," said Lee.
"He caused Sentek's backline a lot of trouble with his movement."
Like goalkeeper Mukundan, Danial has already made appearances for the senior Warriors team.
He featured as a substitute in two TNP League Cup matches, once last season and once this term.
Lee tips him to make a breakthrough next year.
"He's a young boy and has a small build, but he has good vision," said the coach.
"His movement is great - he knows when to go, when not to - and he is very dangerous on the ball.
"He's a very quick player who can beat his opponents, and sometimes we throw him on the wing if we feel we can exploit the opponents' weakness."