The Singapore Premier League (SPL) may have only just concluded, but Lion City Sailors head coach Aurelio Vidmar has already set his expectations out for the coming season.
And the Australian made no bones about what he expected to see from his charges next year: progress and evolution.
The Sailors were unable to achieve their target of winning the league title this campaign, finishing five points behind champions Albirex Niigata (S) in third.
While Aurelio still graded the Sailors’ season a “big pass”, he made it clear that he expected more from the team next year.
“We have to see improvement for next season, and we have to progress and evolve,” Aurelio declared. “That’s what we’ll be doing, trying to strengthen the team across the board.
“We set this year as the time for us to get an understanding of what we’re doing, and I think we’ve got a good foundation. All of the clubs had the hiccup with the Covid-19 situation that put everyone on the backfoot.
“But I think we came out of that period well, and so I would rate our season overall a big pass.”
Aurelio revealed that of the most pleasing aspects of the Sailors’ season was their ability to find the back of the net – they finished as the highest scoring team in the league with 44 goals, and only failed to score in just one match.
He said: “It’s great to see us scoring that many goals. What’s more, I think we scored more than a dozen goals in the final 10 minutes games, so that showed we have a very good level of fitness which allowed us to keep pushing to the last minute.
“But the highlight for me would be to see the progress we’ve made as a team, from when I joined the club last December to the end of the season. That, as a whole, was very pleasing.”
The Sailors were the big winners at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) awards night, with Gabriel Quak being named the SPL Player of the Year, Saifullah Akbar winning the Young Player of the Year, and Stipe Plazibat bagging the Top Scorer award.
In addition, a total of five Sailors – Gabriel, Stipe, Song Ui-Young, Kaishu Yamazaki and Tajeli Salamat – were named in the SPL Team of the Year.
Aurelio, however, was keen to emphasise on the importance of the collective. He explained: “I don’t like to talk about individual players, but I think it’s clear there are many players throughout the season who have done very well, and some of those guys have rightly won awards. But there are many others who have impressed as well, but just don’t get the accolades.”
By virtue of finishing third in the SPL, the Sailors will be granted entry into next season’s AFC Cup.
And Aurelio has set his sights on winning the regional competition, along with becoming SPL champions and lifting the Singapore Cup.
“As always with the SPL and the AFC Cup, we’re looking to win it,” Aurelio said. “Every competition we enter, we want to be one of the teams that think they can win it. It’s no different for the AFC Cup, although we’ll have to wait and see where we are in terms of the pots and where we are in terms of who we’re playing, and how that whole format is going to pan out because at this stage we’re not really sure.
“But it will be a huge challenge for everyone as it’s going to be a long, tough season with the Singapore Cup, SPL and the AFC Cup.
“But we’re determined to win every competition, so I told the players before they went on their break that they should enjoy the rest with their families and friends, because next year we’ll be working even harder to achieve our goals.”