Santa Brings Rashid
Christmas came on time for Grilled's expectant legion of fans, as Niculae Stanca
presided over a shrewd S$2.5 million move for 24 year-old former U-20 defender Rashid bin Ahmad
, who signed on a contract worth nearly S$80000 a week.
This immediately fuelled further speculation that Grilled would be looking to offload some of their backs, which Stanca acknowledged. "We are looking to Rashid as our future, together with Ling and Liang. I would of course love to have as many quality men to rotate as required, but with us mostly playing a 2-5-3, all should understand if we are listening to offers."
With Saudi national Qassem Madaini
still holding on to the roles of captain and free-kick specialist, the head coach's comments were seen to be directed toward Lin Jungui
and Walter Ross
in particular, with the Austrian Number Two already heavily rumoured to be at last throwing in the towel. "Ross has had only about seven appearances a season, many of them as a substitute. I wouldn't blame him." a supporter posted on the club forum.
Opinions were split as to whether Grilled actually needed another central defender, but Madaini was in no doubt as to Rashid's value. "To me, it's a steal." the Grilled captain insisted. "We have two great young prospects, and several veterans like myself, but no-one to fill the gap in the middle until today."
"Liyong and Fuquan are still a bit raw, while to be honest I see myself as only having three, maybe four, seasons left in my legs at this level. By then, if all goes well, Rashid will be 28, in his prime, and ready to take over; maybe even before that, but I'd like to keep my place too!"
Grilled's new defensive star nearly missed out altogether, with it being well-known that he went into a bit of a funk after not being selected for Yellow Buggies' youth team, while a couple of his friends got in. He nearly quit football totally and was about to devote himself to an F&B course, when Team Remy83 scout Zhan Wai Ah turned his life around.
"I was saying, no, it's behind me, but he insisted that I join the Novices for one session, and the rest is history." Rashid smiled. The uncompromising centreback worked his way right into the senior side, making his debut in a 5-0 Cup spanking of Spartanx United, and scoring in the eleventh minute of his professional life.
He helped his side to win the title and promote to the third division, and settled a S$2.2 million transfer to Turkish team Güzelbahçe FK 2007 days before making his international U-20 debut, coincidentally together with former Grilled man Safrinho.
Although they lost that 0-2 against Oceania, and both in fact never played for the national youth team again, Rashid's club performances were beyond reproach, and he soon won a bumper S$5 million move to German side Einziger Europapokalsieger der DDR after slightly more than a season, and thence on to the Birds.
While Rashid has stated that he is raring to go, Stanca has admitted that even he is unsure if the new signing will feature against JUtd on Sunday. "I have a selection problem now, but it's a good one to have!"