Lionel Tan knew exactly what would be in store for him the moment he put pen to paper to sign for the Lion City Sailors. 

Making the leap over from Hougang United, the 25-year-old defender is acutely aware he is now entering an environment steeped with higher expectations – a club that is expected to challenge for all honours in the domestic game. 

“I knew by signing for the club, I’m going to get out of my comfort zone. Making this decision required a leap of faith, but I am sure that I’ve made the right call. 

“I know the pressure that will be on us to perform well and win trophies, but that’s normal – there’s pressure and expectations in every job. It’s about adapting to the culture of this club and I’m sure I can do so very quickly with the help of my new teammates,” said Lionel.

Having spent four years with Hougang across two separate spells and developing into one of the country’s finest young defenders there, Lionel acknowledged it was not an easy decision to leave the Cheetahs but knew this was a step he ought to take to bring his career to the next level.  

“I enjoyed a great affinity with everyone at Hougang including the fans, so I’m very glad to end 2022 on a high note by winning the Singapore Cup with the club. 

“But I don’t want to remain stagnant and it’s important at this stage of my football chapter to test my abilities and develop myself further – both as a person and as a player,” said the 1.84m tall Lionel, who has represented Singapore at various age-group levels and captained the nation’s Under-22s on several occasions. 

This is a return to Bishan Stadium of sorts for Lionel, who made his professional debut for the Sailors’ predecessor, Home United, in 2016 in a League Cup fixture against Albirex Niigata (S).

He knows that doing well here will boost his chances of realising his childhood dream of representing the Lions, but the new Sailors no. 5 is first putting the club’s objectives as his top priority. 

“What’s most important is that I do my best and be consistent in my performances to help the club be successful. Of course, I will love to start every game, but there’s very healthy competition for places here and that can only be good for the team. 

“Hopefully I can make my debut for Singapore in the near future, but my main focus now is to give my 100 percent commitment to the club and let’s see how things go from there.”