SINGAPORE - After enduring a winless 2017, Lions coach V. Sundram Moorthy has sprung several surprises as his first squad of the new year was announced on Tuesday morning (March 13) for upcoming games against Maldives and Chinese Taipei this month.
The 52-year-old coach handed a shock call-up for 17-year-old striker Benjamin Davis, who is currently playing in the Under-18 team of English Championship side Fulham FC.
Said Benjamin: "I was pleasantly surprised to receive the call-up and this moment means a lot to me as I have always wanted to play for the national team.
"My training at Fulham has been enriching and I am learning all the time. I will be making the most of this opportunity to learn from coach Sundram and the more experienced players whom I will be joining."
Sundram has also handed recalls to 129-cap defender Baihakki Khaizan, 34, who has not been a part of the national team since their failed 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup campaign, and 22-year-old playmaker Adam Swandi, who is back in the Lions squad for the first time since August 2015.
Said Sundram: "With several of our players plying their trade overseas this year, they will be bringing wide-ranging experiences to the squad.
"I have called up a mix of players, with some new, some familiar and some returning faces. These two matches are important to me in terms of bringing in fresh players into the fold to complement the seasoned players.
"I am looking forward to working with the boys again and hope to be playing to a full crowd in our Lions' first game of 2018 at the National Stadium."
As reported by The Straits Times last week, there are also some high-profile omissions from the squad.
Chief among them are the trio of Mustafic Fahrudin, Daniel Bennett and former skipper Shahril Ishak, who combine for 361 caps.
Singapore have endured a wretched run of results ahead of November's AFF Suzuki Cup. They are on a 13-match winless run, scoring just seven goals and are currently ranked 173rd in the world.
The Lions hope to snap that run in an 'A' international friendly against the Maldives (ranked 150th) on March 23 before they play Chinese Taipei (134th) in a dead-rubber Asian Cup qualifier four days later. Both matches will be played at the National Stadium.
Tickets for the two games, which start from $4 for concession rates, can be purchased at www.sportshub.com.sg.
Singapore squad -Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny, Izwan Mahbud, Zaiful Nizam
Defenders: Baihakki Khaizan, Shakir Hamzah, Nazrul Nazari, Irfan Fandi, Emmeric Ong, Anders Aplin
Midfielders: Hariss Harun, Safuwan Baharudin, Shahdan Sulaiman, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Zulfahmi Arifin, Izzdin Shafiq, Yasir Hanapi, M Anumanthan,
Forwards: Khairul Amri, Faris Ramli, Adam Swandi, Shawal Anuar, Ikhsan Fandi*, Iqbal Hamid Hussain, Benjamin Davis.