Dismal Warriors need to fight for careers: Coach

Warriors' Syaqir Sulaiman going up for a header against goalkeeper Yazid Yasin during training at Choa Chu Kang Stadium. The nine-time S-League champions, languishing in seventh spot in the table, take on high-flying Albirex Niigata tonight.
Warriors' Syaqir Sulaiman going up for a header against goalkeeper Yazid Yasin during training at Choa Chu Kang Stadium. The nine-time S-League champions, languishing in seventh spot in the table, take on high-flying Albirex Niigata tonight.ST PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN

By coach Razif Onn's own admission, Warriors FC have endured "one of our worst seasons".
 

The one-time local football powerhouses - with nine S-League titles - are seventh in the nine-team standings with 22 points, 25 behind leaders Albirex Niigata, their opponents tonight at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

With three games left, there is little at stake for the Warriors, but Razif hopes his players will be inspired to play for their careers. Said the 62-year-old, who took over in May following the departure of Jorg Steinebrunner: "We haven't performed well all season due to many reasons."

While he declined to elaborate on the possible causes, he added: "Even if there is nothing to fight for, it doesn't mean we're going to give up. Every player has to prove that they are worth to be signed on for next year."

There is reason for him to be optimistic. For all of their struggles, Warriors are one of only three teams to beat Albirex this season, winning 2-0 in March.

They lost narrowly to the White Swans in June, clawing back from two goals down only to concede in the 89th minute and lose 2-3.

Against a side known for playing a free-flowing style of attacking football, Razif was clear about his game plan: "We will let them come at us and play on the counter.

"We know what they are capable of and we did a lot of drills in training. But the boys need to make it happen on the pitch."

To a certain extent, there is local pride at stake, with a foreign team set to win the S-League for a second straight season. In fact, Warriors were the last local team to win the S-League in 2014.

But, asked about Tampines' coach Akbar Nawas' jibe that teams seemed to play their A-game against the Stags, who are second and seven points behind Albirex, Razif said: "The truth is teams and players always play well against the good teams. That's football.

"But my job is not to do anyone any favours. My job is to prepare for the match and try to beat Albirex."

Chua Siang Yee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2016, with the headline 'Dismal Warriors need to fight for careers: Coach'. Print Edition | Subscribe