Young Lions banking on Ikhsan for goals
Young Lions coach Tardy relying on Ikhsan, second son of legend Fandi Ahmad, to get the goals
|GARENA YOUNG LIONS||WARRIORS FC|
Garena Young Lions coach Richard Tardy is hoping the apple doesn't fall far from the tree as he places his trust on Ikhsan Fandi - the second son of local football legend Fandi Ahmad - to get the goals the national Under-22s need for their upcoming major assignments.
The Young Lions have played at least 21 matches in the S.League and internationally, recording just 14 goals with just two wins against Myanmar Under-22 and Vanuatu Under-20.
Tardy admitted that the lack of a prolific goalscorer is a concern ahead of next month's AFC U-23 qualifiers in Myanmar and August's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. But he has also identified a trio of forwards who could solve their scoring woes.
The 66-year-old Frenchman told The New Paper: "Ikhsan has the best profile to be our No. 9 - he is good with his heading, his timing, and can shoot with both feet. He may be only 18, but he is courageous.
"He enlisted last year and had no high-level training for a year. A striker needs to have a picture, to visualise scoring a goal, so he has lost some of that capacity which he needs to get back now.
"I want to push him, but I have to be careful because we want him not to peak now, but in the coming months.
"We also have players such as Home United's Amiruldin Asraf and our own Taufik Suparno. Amiruldin fights to the end, and he would have learnt much playing with a good foreign striker like Stipe Plazibat.
"Taufik has done well to come back from an anterior crucite ligament injury. He has a big heart and good spirit, but needs work tactically and in terms of positioning.
"Perhaps we cannot play all of them at the same time, so we need to find the best organisation for our team.
"We definitely need to score and we have been conducting specific drills in front of goal for 20 to 30 minutes after training."
While Ikhsan is the only one among the trio who has yet to open his S.League scoring account - Amiruldin and Taufik have two goals each this season - his family name alone is enough to get fans excited, despite accumulating just 200 minutes of league action across four games this term.
Ikhsan has the best profile to be our No. 9 - he is good with his heading, his timing, and can shoot with both feet. He may be only 18, but he is courageous.Garena Young Lions coach Richard Tardy on Ikhsan Fandi
At youth level, he provided a glimpse of his ability when he scored a hat-trick at the 2015 Lion City Cup against Liverpool U-15 to help Singapore U-16 come back from a 3-0 deficit and draw 3-3, before a penalty shoot-out defeat.
Determined to make a name for himself in his own right, Ikhsan told TNP: "It feels good to be back on the field but I have a lot to catch up on my touches, fitness and finishing.
"The most important thing I feel I need is the feeling of scoring again. I miss that.
"I have been in better form but these are challenges I have to overcome and try to get back in shape as quickly as possible. Before games, I always have a good feeling, but I'm not converting my chances... I'll keep giving 100 per cent and keep trying to score for the team.
"The AFC U-23 qualifiers and SEA Games are good opportunities for me but I'm fighting for a spot against good players like Amiruldin and Taufik, so I got to work hard and prove myself not only in training but in matches as well."
Winless in the S.League, the Young Lions will have two more games - against Warriors FC tonight and Geylang International on Sunday - to find their scoring boots before turning to their international assignments.
Tardy hopes to have the understanding and cooperation of S.League clubs for the release of the U-22 players to have a full team to work with during next month's The New Paper League Cup campaign, which they will not be involved in.
"We will reduce the intensity of our training first to allow recovery of players who have played a lot this season, before working on technical, tactical and physical aspects," he said.
"We know we have lost many international games this year, but we were beaten by strong teams such as Qatar, Jordan, the UAE and Thailand. So, we are looking at U-22 teams like India, Cambodia and Laos, who are not as strong, for two friendlies on July 11 and 13."
They will then face counterparts from hosts Myanmar (July 19), Australia (July 21) and Brunei (July 23), aiming for two wins that could help them qualify for next year's AFC U-23 Championship in China.
After the qualifiers, there will be a week-long training camp in Australia, where they will play a Perth selection side on Aug 4 and Australia U-20 on Aug 8, before heading to Kuala Lumpur for the SEA Games.
- Tampines Rovers v Geylang Int'l (Jurong West Stadium)
- Geylang Int'l v Garena Young Lions (Jalan Besar Stadium)
- Warriors FC v Brunei DPMM (Choa Chu Kang Stadium)
*All matches at 7.30pm