Fandi Ahmad’s acid test with the Lions will come at the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup which is scheduled to take place from November 8 to December 15.
Singapore are in Group B alongside defending champions Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and the winner of the qualification tie between Brunei and Timor Leste.
Surely, V. Sundram Moorthy’s replacement will look to household names like Malaysia Super League quartet Faris Ramli, Shahdan Sulaiman, Safuwan Baharudin and Hariss Harun. He can also count on Hassan Sunny, Izwan Mahbud, Baihakki Khaizan, Zulfahmi Arifin and Gabriel Quak who ply their trade in the Thai leagues.
But with the Singapore Premier League (SPL) setting up new regulations for this season, a slew of youngsters have grabbed the opportunity to showcase their talent while veterans like Shahril Ishak and Khairul Amri have rolled back the years with some magical performances.
With more than half of the season done and dusted, FOX Sports Asia’s Kelvin Leong picks out 23 players from the SPL who will be options for Fandi should he go for an All-SPL roster.
In the goalkeeping department, Balestier Khalsa stopper Zaiful Nizam is still the only man who can threaten Hassan Sunny and Izwan Mahbud’s dominance in what is Singapore’s undoubtedly strongest department.
Over in defence, Home United lead the pack with the likes of Abdil Qaiyyim and Faizal Roslan in the mix alongside Young Lions stalwart Irfan Fandi. Fadli Kamis and Emmeric Ong are the constant workhorses while Syahrul Sazali is an unheralded full-back who has the lungs to go up and down the flank.
Midfield is where the Lions have options with the dynamic duo of Izzdin Shafiq and Yasir Hanapi providing the rhythm. The pace of Shawal Anuar, Hafiz Nor and Adam Swandi will expose any defensive cracks in the opposition camp. Ho Wai Loon’s set-piece accuracy is another weapon that could come in handy. Not forgetting Tampines utility man Shameer Aziq, who has shown that he can defend and attack with equal ease.
When it comes to attack, Fandi is spoilt for choices as Tampines Rovers old guards Amri and Fazrul Nawaz are in good form at the moment. Coupled with the deadly combination of experience and youth that Ikhsan Fandi and Shahril bring, this is a very strong attacking quartet who bring different qualities to the table.
Potential 23-man SPL squad for Singapore’s AFF Suzuki Cup quest
Goalkeepers: Zaiful Nizam (Balestier), Khairulhin Khalid (Hougang), Zainol Gulam (Geylang)
Defenders: Abdil Qaiyyim (Home), Shakir Hamzah (Home), Faizal Roslan (Home), Faritz Hameed (Home), Irfan Fandi (Young Lions), Fadli Kamis (Balestier), Syahrul Sazali (Young Lions), Emmeric Ong (Warriors)
Midfielders: Shameer Aziq (Tampines), Ho Wai Loon (Warriors), Shawal Anuar (Geylang), Izzdin Shafiq (Home), M. Anumanthan (Home), Hafiz Nor (Home), Adam Swandi (Albirex), Yasir Hanapi (Tampines)
Forwards: Khairul Amri (Tampines), Fazrul Nawaz (Tampines), Shahril Ishak (Home), Ikhsan Fandi (Young Lions)
Potential Starting XI: Zaiful Nizam (GK), Shakir Hamzah, Abdil Qaiyyim, Irfan Fandi, Emmeric Ong, Izzdin Shafiq, Yasir Hanapi, Shawal Anuar, Adam Swandi, Shahril Ishak, Ikhsan Fandi