Asian Football Transfers

On Hariss Harun’s ‘Home’coming: Time For Someone To Walk The Plank?

I got inspired by Kim’s writing style and I’m taking a crack at it

The calm waters have been disturbed. The other vessels search around for the source of this disturbance. And then, in the distance, they find it.

A captain is boarding the dreadnaught that is Lion City Sailors.

Sorry, scratch that.

The Captain is boarding the dreadnaught and with his addition, the Sailors have added more quality to a crew laden with star power.

Yet, The Captain’s arrival is not without consequences, and unfortunately, room onboard the first deck is limited. It’s time for someone (or some players), to walk the plank.

Harris Harun’s return to Lion City Sailors has got a lot of people talking. And yes, I say return because he was on loan at Home United for the 2017 season.

The Sailors aren’t afraid to add to their long list of stars and have added arguably Singapore’s finest gem, our national team captain, Harris Harun.

Besides captaining Johor, playing regularly in Malaysia, having serious AFC Champions League experience under his belt, Harris also brings a different sort of experience. Harris Harun understands the feeling of winning silverware on a regular basis. It might seem like a trivial point, but it’s an important factor and something that the bulk of the Sailors squad surprisingly lacks.

Yes, the club has a few league and cup winners amongst their ranks but can they rival the collection of trophies that Harris has amassed with JDT?

In his 7 years with JDT, he has clinched the following:

  • 6 X Malaysia Super League Champion
  • 1 X AFC Cup Champion
  • 1 X Malaysia Cup Champion
  • 1 X Malaysia FA Cup Champion
  • 5 X Charity Shield Winner

Winning silverware has become habitual for Harris, and with his acquisition, the Sailors have added someone who can truly positively influence the squad and bring the team to the next level.

Intangibles aside, they also have brought in a versatile player who can competently play either as a defensive midfielder, central midfielder, or centre-back. Shahdan Sulaiman had been the only viable senior in the central defensive midfield role, and Harris adds depth to that position. That being said, Sailors may try to plug him in their backline as well, given their somewhat leaky defence.

It is evident that Harris Harun provides Sailors options, but his arrival might spell the end of regular first-team football for potentially a few players – namely either Amirul Adli or Shahdan Sulaiman.

Why these two? Well, for one, they are both playing in positions that Harris could be deployed into but don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying that either Shahdan or Amirul are bad players. Though, it is more likely that Amirul gets dropped. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is a fine Centre-back and still only 25 years old and can become one of the nation’s best. Yet, the Sailors have demonstrated how they aren’t afraid to drop quality players for bigger stars.

Song Ui-Yong and Tajeli Salamat are prime examples. Both players were in the 2020 SPL Team of the Year and were pretty exceptional last season. Despite that, the club has regularly benched both individuals this season to field their newer and “higher calibre” acquisitions.

Jorge Fellipe has made a fair number of errors at the back, but would Sailors drop him instead of Amirul? I really doubt so. Jorge offers height and physical presence that is quite frankly unparalleled in the SPL. Barring his occasional clumsiness, he is a real asset to the team. His towering presence in set pieces make him a natural target for crosses, and his forward runs as an offensive centre-back help contribute to the attacking flow.

Of course, there’s also the other possibility – an unthinkable one at first glance but still very much probable given the U23-rule: Benching Harris Harun?

If you think benching Harris is unthinkable, take a look at Faris Ramli. The 2019 SPL Player of the year signed for Sailors this year but has spent a good chunk of matches on the bench before usually being brought on during the second half. Faris is truly no bench player. He needs to be starting games.

Yet, as much as it’s a possibility, I firmly believe this scenario is less probable than benching Amirul or Shahdan.

Trying to guess and predict the scenarios that unfold following Harris’s arrival in June has also got me contemplating about two other things.

Firstly, if Harris is slotted into the first team, whoever he replaces will be dropped to the bench and that means someone on the bench is going to lose their spot in the matchday squad. Whoever it is, they’re certainly going to be unhappy.

Secondly, and more importantly, with so much talent within their ranks, the Sailors need to find a rotational system that works. As much as the first eleven should be largely maintained to help continue their momentum, rotating players becomes important for a club like Lion City Sailors for several reasons.

While player rotation helps to maintain a good level of morale amongst all players, keeping players match fit is just as important. Without match experience, players tend to get rusty and thrusting them back into the first team after a prolonged absence might not yield their best performances.

I think we sometimes tend to forget that players aren’t machines and they need playing time to get into the groove of things.

Playing their ‘B’ Team time and time again is important, and here’s the thing – they have an incredible depth of players outside their usual starting XI. It is a shame to repeatedly see players like Tajeli Salamat, Song Ui-yong, Faris Ramli, Ho Wai Loon, Hafiz Nor and Adam Swandi not get the chance they deserve.

With this being an AFF Suzuki Cup year, National Team head coach Tatsuma Yoshida would be keeping an eye on consistent performers. How can these players stake their claim when they are not even fielded by the Sailors themselves?

These are issues that need to be addressed by the new incoming head coach. A good headache to have given the depth at his disposal.

Whatever may come forth, only time will tell how things unfold following Harris’s arrival in June.

Till then, welcome back, skipper.

Featured Image Credits: Lion City Sailors

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