Aide to try out striking options
COURTS YOUNG LIONS v JOHOR DARUL TA'ZIM II
(Tomorrow, 7pm, Jalan Besar Stadium*)
He has lost his top scorer from the previous season, but Courts Young Lions coach Aide Iskandar has hardly missed a beat as he continues preparations for the upcoming Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season, and the business of the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which Singapore will host from June 5 to 16.
Singapore have not won the coveted football gold in the history of the Games, and the expectation is to win it this year, which amplifies every match the Courts Young Lions play in the build-up to the competition.
Tomorrow's friendly against Malaysian Premier League side Johor Darul Ta'zim II at the Jalan Besar Stadium will already draw some attention, especially up front.
Former top gun Sahil Suhaimi was given the green light to sign for the LionsXII and play in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) and, while he should remain Aide's main striker for the SEA Games, the Young Lions coach can expose other options in attack which he could use for the regional battle.
One of those options is former Geylang striker Amy Recha, who will lead the line for the Under-23s tomorrow, alongside Irfan Fandi and playmaker Shahfiq Ghani.
Amy, 23, has been in National Service for the past 21 months and, though he was in the squad last season, rarely featured in the S.League.
He did, however, impress in a 1-1 draw with Hougang last week, and Aide is expecting him to get stronger with more games.
"Amy has been training well lately, and it's pleasing to see just how motivated he has been to earn a place in the team," said the 39-year-old coach, yesterday. "He impressed me against Hougang and he's shown that he's matured from last year."
The pint-sized Amy, who stands at 1.69m and weighs just 60kg, is relishing his chance in the first team, and hopes to make the cut for the 20-man SEA Games squad that will be finalised in May.
"I'm starting to feel good on the pitch again," said Amy, who will complete NS in March.
"It was tough last year because I hadn't played professionally for a year. But now I'm getting into my rhythm."
Aide also has his eye on Adam Swandi, former Warriors winger R Suria Prakash and striker Iqbal Hussain - all of whom will be given playing time tomorrow and against MSL giants Pahang, in another friendly at Jalan Besar on Wednesday.
The Young Lions leave on Jan 19 for a training tour in Turkey, where they will play four matches against international age-group sides.
Aide's charges will then host the Japan Under-22s on Feb 14 at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Irfan, 17, whom Aide hopes to include in his Games squad, will not travel to Turkey due to club commitments in Chile.
Irfan trained with Chilean club Universidad Catolica last year and is likely to return there on Jan 17.
Said Aide: "With Faris (Ramli) and Sahil in the LionsXII, I have an opportunity to try out players in different positions.
"We're not a 100 per cent yet, but we will get there over the next five months.
"JDT II will be a good test for us, especially in defence. That's why we're arranging games with good teams from here on."
*Entry to tomorrow's match is free.