JAGUARS FACE TOUGH START
Great managers like Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Rafael Benitez have done it.
And now, Tanjong Pagar United coach Patrick Vallee can be added to that illustrious group, after he moaned about the unkind fixture list ahead of the 2014 Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season.
The Frenchman is sweating over his team's ability to negotiate their first two league games, which will be played over four days.
The Jaguars travel to Pasir Gudang in Johor to play an 8.45pm game against Harimau Muda B on Monday, and then host Hougang United at the Queenstown Stadium on Thursday.
Speaking on the sidelines of Tanjong Pagar's pre-season press conference at Queenstown yesterday, Vallee puffed his cheeks and said: "It's not easy. My worry is that we come back very late from the Harimau Muda game, and then we already have to prepare for Hougang.
"I have nothing to say against the schedule, because this time it is us - another month maybe another S.League team (will have problems).
"Anyway, as professionals, my players have to be prepared to play games every three or four days sometimes."
Vallee will be hoping his men repeat their brilliant start last season, when they lost just two of their first 12 games.
But the Jaguars paid the price for having a thin squad, slipping to sixth by the season's end.
An injury to key midfielder Sazali Salleh also did not help their cause.
The Jaguars will have to start the season well again, if they are to achieve the target set by club chairman Edward Liu.
Liu announced yesterday that he hoped the team, who have been beefed up by a number of useful signings, will finish in the top three of the S.League come November.
"I won't ask us to compete with the likes of Home United and Tampines Rovers for the title just yet," he said.
"But we are aiming for the top three. If the team can do better, then it will be a bonus."
Vallee, who tipped new French midfielder Sebastien Etiemble (pronounced "awn-ti-om") and ex-Home United winger Firdaus Idros as vital pieces in his jigsaw, relished the challenge.
"I haven't set any targets for my players, but I agree with my management," he said. "Every year, you should look to improve your level. So my objective is for us to do better than last season."
At yesterday's press conference, Tanjong Pagar also announced a three-year kit deal worth $255,000 with British brand Mitre, who have sponsored S.League sides Woodlands Wellington and Hougang United in the past.
Alfred Toh, general manager of Mitre's local distributor Teamlink Marketing Pte Ltd, said: "Tanjong Pagar, like Mitre, have a lot of history so I think we make a good combination."
Nakatake finally gets his chance
Last March, he travelled more than 5,000km from his hometown of Kanagawa, Japan, with hopes of playing in the S.League, only to find that every team had filled their five-man foreign player roster.
Instead of throwing in the towel, Shunsuke Nakatake (right) clung on to his football dream.
For the rest of the year, the 23-year-old, 1.74m midfielder played for Eunos Crescent in the first division of the National Football League (NFL).
He impressed, regularly dominating proceedings in midfield and chipping in with his fair share of goals as his team finished third.
His perseverance has paid off, after Hougang United unveiled Nakatake as one of their five foreign signings for this season's Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League at their press conference at Hougang Stadium yesterday.
Recalling his time here last year, Nakatake told The New Paper: "It was difficult. But I liked Singapore, even though it can be very hot at times, and I decided to give it a shot."
The Cheetahs open their season with a home clash against Woodlands Wellington tomorrow.
There will be much interest over how the Japanese performs, after being plucked from the NFL.
"Football here is different from Japan," he said.
"The players here are bigger and stronger, but I will give 100 per cent in every game to help the team.
"I see myself as a defensive midfielder who can help my team to build up play from the back."
With most S.League clubs preferring to sign tried-and-tested Japanese players from Albirex Niigata, Hougang coach Amin Nasir explained why he decided to take a risk with an NFL import, especially after Nigerian forward Robert Eziakor had turned out to be a flop last season.
"He's young, skilful, and hardworking," said the 45-year-old former Singapore international defender.
"We've watched him play and he fits the bill of the type of player we need. Having been in Singapore close to a year, he has also acclimatised and we believe he will do well."
Hougang also announced a new jersey deal with Italian apparel company Macron yesterday, along with a partnership with fitness centre Speed Institute.
Catch S.League matches 'live'
S.League matches will be shown on three free-to-air channels this season.
Starting with tonight's match featuring Tampines Rovers and Home United, fans can tune in to MediaCorp okto at 7.15pm, StarHub on SuperSports Arena Channel 201 or free cable 76.25 Mhz to enjoy live telecasts of S.League games.
Highlights from the national team, S.League and LionsXII matches will also be broadcast via the S.League Show every week.
Meanwhile, the S.League has appointed Voxsports as their official online media provider and content generator for the 2014 season.