Match Of The Week

Football: Been there, done that ... now for the S-League

A happy Billy Mehmet during the 4-0 win over Lt Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club in the AFC Cup, in which he scored the opener.
A happy Billy Mehmet during the 4-0 win over Lt Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club in the AFC Cup, in which he scored the opener. ST FILE PHOTO
Ken Ilso, who played in the German Bundesliga in the 2012-2013 season, is a mentor to young players at Home United.
Ken Ilso, who played in the German Bundesliga in the 2012-2013 season, is a mentor to young players at Home United. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

They have played in higher-profile leagues in Europe, Asia and Australia. Tonight, a Briton and a Dane will face off in the unlikely surroundings of the S-League in a highly awaited clash. They regale readers with their wide experience and what brought them to Singapore. Pan Zaixiang reports

 Billy Mehmet (Tampines Rovers)

The ball was in mid-air as Billy Mehmet took a quick look and almost nonchalantly took a swipe at it. It ended up in the back of the net, despite the attempt by the diving Tampines Rovers goalkeeper Joey Sim to parry it.

It was only a Stags training session but it showed how Mehmet has made a habit of scoring goals throughout his career.

The 31-year-old Briton has had a reasonable strike rate at Perth Glory in the A-League or Dunfermline Athletic in the Scottish Premier League, with a total of 26 goals in 78 games in all.

The journeyman also won the Golden Boot award for Malaysia Premier League side Kedah in 2014 with 23 goals in 26 matches in all competitions.

In 2015, he netted 15 times in 25 games in the Malaysia Super League and Malaysia Cup for Sarawak.

The product of English Premier League side West Ham's academy has continued his goal-scoring abilities with the Stags, with two goals in his last three competitive outings.

But despite his goal-scoring exploits, he is very much a team player. "I don't really bother who scores the goals as long as the team wins," said the former Republic of Ireland Under-21 international, speaking to The Straits Times before training on Tuesday.

"So far, we have 11 goals from eight or nine different players and that's perfect in a team."

There was no shortage of offers for Mehmet when he decided to leave Sarawak at the end of last season but he chose Singapore despite offers from Turkey and Scotland.

"I just wanted to try something new and I knew I would like Singapore because it's such a clean country," he said.

"I have been here a few times on holiday; there are a lot of things to do outside of football and Jordan (Webb) has shown me a few of the restaurants that he goes to.

"But I have not done that much, as I have been sleeping a lot because it's really hot here and I have to make sure that I get enough rest.

"But as the season continues, the Tampines boys will show me around more and I definitely want to visit Universal Studios."

The exciting attacking triumvirate of Jermaine Pennant, Jordan Webb and Mehmet have set the league alight so far, playing an integral role in the Stags' seven goals in two league matches.

And Mehmet explained that it is their camaraderie off the pitch which has translated into their chemistry on the pitch.

"We live with each other and when we are outside football, we have a laugh and joke around," he said.

But he was keen to stress that this chemistry is not only restricted to the three of them. "That's just outside football and when we are here, we are all mixing around.

Team-mate Fabian Kwok agreed, he said: "He's a very nice person off the field who jokes with the locals and is a great guy to have in the team."

Fans will be watching him closely against Home United at Bishan Stadium tonight, as he looks to continue his scoring streak.


Ken Ilso (Home United)

He has played in one of Europe's biggest leagues, under the bright lights of Germany's Bundesliga when he turned out for Fortuna Duesseldorf in the 2012-2013 season.

And Home United's Danish striker Ken Ilso knows he has a responsibility to lift his struggling team - currently seventh in the table - out of the doldrums.

Ilso, who is not an out-and-out striker, had a relatively successful 2015 season with Home when he contributed 11 goals in 19 appearances in the S-League, despite being sidelined for three months through injury.

He has yet to score this season, and this could be because he was deployed as a winger for the past two games. But Ilso is not overly concerned.

"I feel that it's my job to score," said the 29-year-old on Monday. "I could give the excuse that, because I have been playing as a winger, I don't get the same chances as when playing up front. But I actually had a few chances (in the last two games) that I could have put in.

"As a striker, you are always going to be under pressure when you are not scoring, but I know I'm going to score and it's just a matter of time."

Home's head coach Philippe Aw, who has experimented with Ilso's position in the past two games, believes that his star brings more than just goals to the team.

"He's not merely a goal-scorer but also an all-round player," said the 39-year-old. "There's no doubting his quality. When he gets the chance, he will open his scoring account sooner or later."

Ilso will be part of the Home side looking for their first win of the season against the in-form Tampines Rovers today. And he is looking forward to this blockbuster clash.

He said: "Even though we haven't been winning and are under a bit of pressure, we are not intimidated and it will be an interesting game."

Having played in the Netherlands (SC Heerenveen) as well as China (Guangzhou R&F), he is now revelling in his new role as a mentor to his young team-mates.

Said the ex-Denmark Under-21 international: "It's a new responsibility which I really like, it's part of my job to guide the younger players in some way, especially those who are playing in my position."

One of them is 18-year-old striker Irfan Fandi, who is keen to learn as much as he can from Ilso.

"He has played in the Bundesliga and we see a lot of difference in the way he plays. He is very composed and he is bringing what he has learnt to the S-League," said Irfan.

"On the pitch, I try to observe the way he finishes and get as many tips from him as possible. Off the pitch, he is a very good role model."

Ilso revealed that he would be happy staying in Singapore for the long haul if he sees progress in the league. "The league this year is a lot more interesting, with people lining up to get tickets, more investments and better players," he said.

"Although the crowds are not a lot compared to what I have played in front of, it's a start and I want to be part of the development."

S-LEAGUE
HomeUnited v Tampines Rovers
Bishan Stadium, 7.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline 'BEEN THERE, DONE THAT... NOW FOR THE S-LEAGUE Billy Mehmet (Tampines Rovers)'. Print Edition | Subscribe