Four Rovers on the move?

Clockwise, from left: Hafiz Abu Sujad, who scored twice against Warriors FC on Saturday; defender Afiq Yunos; midfielder Fabian Kwok; and winger Christopher van Huizen could be heading out of Tampines.
Clockwise, from left: Hafiz Abu Sujad (above), who scored twice against Warriors FC on Saturday; defender Afiq Yunos; midfielder Fabian Kwok; and winger Christopher van Huizen could be heading out of Tampines. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Clockwise, from left: Hafiz Abu Sujad, who scored twice against Warriors FC on Saturday; defender Afiq Yunos; midfielder Fabian Kwok; and winger Christopher van Huizen could be heading out of Tampines.
Clockwise, from left: Hafiz Abu Sujad, who scored twice against Warriors FC on Saturday; defender Afiq Yunos (above); midfielder Fabian Kwok; and winger Christopher van Huizen could be heading out of Tampines. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
Clockwise, from left: Hafiz Abu Sujad, who scored twice against Warriors FC on Saturday; defender Afiq Yunos; midfielder Fabian Kwok; and winger Christopher van Huizen could be heading out of Tampines.
Clockwise, from left: Hafiz Abu Sujad, who scored twice against Warriors FC on Saturday; defender Afiq Yunos; midfielder Fabian Kwok (above); and winger Christopher van Huizen could be heading out of Tampines. ST PHOTO: ST FILE
Clockwise, from left: Hafiz Abu Sujad, who scored twice against Warriors FC on Saturday; defender Afiq Yunos; midfielder Fabian Kwok; and winger Christopher van Huizen could be heading out of Tampines.
Clockwise, from left: Hafiz Abu Sujad, who scored twice against Warriors FC on Saturday; defender Afiq Yunos; midfielder Fabian Kwok; and winger Christopher van Huizen (above) could be heading out of Tampines. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Tampines' rivals feel that the S-League's biggest paymasters may reduce wage bill

Rival S-League clubs are circling around Tampines Rovers, hoping to snare some of their footballers, following reports of the club's cash-flow problems.

The money woes arose partly due to the Stags' wage bill, which is the highest in the league. Rivals believe this makes Tampines more open to any deals which would reduce their payroll.

The likes of Christopher van Huizen, Afiq Yunos, Fabian Kwok and Hafiz Abu Sujad have been linked with moves away in the mid-season transfer window, which is open from May 16-June 10.

Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra tried to play down the rumours. He told The Straits Times: "We have a stock of extremely good players and so it is natural for such rumours to circulate.

"If we do transfer players out during the upcoming window we would do so as we deem necessary and it would not necessarily be as a result of recent cash-flow issues."

He added that he has not granted any moves and that it is "premature at this stage to phase out anyone".

The Stags' hefty wage bill is due in part to the clutch of former LionsXII players. Tampines, with eight, have the highest number of men from the disbanded team.

LionsXII players earn about two to three times the average S-League monthly salary of $3,500.

Tampines, the five-time S-League champions, also have to bear the $20,000 star signing Jermaine Pennant draws each month.

Of those linked with moves away, winger van Huizen is reportedly closest out of the door. The Singapore international could join the Garena Young Lions next month following a lack of games.

He started in only three of the Stags' nine league matches and has yet to play the full 90 minutes.

If he does move on, he will link up with former Tampines and LionsXII team-mate Firdaus Kasman, who is there on loan.

Although he is linked to a possible transfer, van Huizen says he has no knowledge of any moves.

"I am not aware about (the rumours) and they don't distract me," the 23-year-old said.

On the prospect of other players leaving Tampines, he replied: "So be it. We can't change whether they want (me) to stay or not. We just want to win as many games as we can."

Midfielder Kwok's future is also uncertain. He has been on the fringes of the team and started only once this season.

But it remains to be seen if Afiq and Hafiz will follow them out of the door.

The versatile Hafiz will be tough to prise away from Tampines, who are second in the table with 20 points, three behind leaders Albirex Niigata who have played one game more. Able to play across midfield and as an overlapping left-back, the 25-year-old has been one of the club's most consistent performers this season.

Last Saturday, he underlined his form with a brace in the 4-2 win over Warriors FC.

Defender Afiq, 25, started in four matches but the Stags are light in central defence, with veterans Noh Rahman and Fahrudin Mustafic among their limited options.

The left-footer is calm, even as the speculation swirls.

He said: "It's normal to have transfer rumours in football and I'm not really distracted. As professionals, all we can do is to focus on doing our jobs."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2016, with the headline 'Four Rovers on the move?'. Print Edition | Subscribe