Raring To Go
Chan Ze Han
, who assumed the captaincy today, broke with his usual demeanor in being delighted about the team's performance. "We were clicking superbly out there, which is exactly what you need, when up against a club like Fringeheads. There was a tough patch around the middle, but we powered through it well."
This sees the Birds matched up against another two-time Challenger Cup winner, France's TWEEZERS, in the quarterfinals. Known as an extremely active tournament participant, TWEEZERS' league fortunes have also burgeoned in recent seasons, and they were only narrowly denied a place in the Championnat by Les chats noars d'Ankh-Morpork, barely a fortnight ago.
Grilled's more immediate concern will of course be Fringeheads in the S-League, though there will be no lack of familiarity with either them or the next three clubs in the table for now: Bot Team FC, Haha and The EV. Big moves have been few and far between here, though there have been a few large transfers around the post-season: an S$8 million dip for French defensive midfielder Grégory Rocha by Haha, The EV's S$10 million splash for Dutch goalkeeping prodigy Pedro Zwagerman, and Fringehead bringing in Iraqi Bashar Muntazir - likely to debut against the Birds on Sunday - just last week.
Though Eren Serpin
intends to keep mum on his counter, he was more willing to chat about the three newcomers - Singapore Big Dogs, who edged Arrogancae for their spot, Club Dinosauria and UDNTK FC. Grilled have most recently been acquainted with the Big Dogs, whose parting gift from II.4 was a 6-0 thrashing that will surely be brought up, when the sides meet again. Head coach Teng Jian Wai has taken the club to the top flight without any reinforcements since then, granted, certainly nothing on the scale of their record S$17 million splurge on Swedish star Emanuel Andersson.
Before that, the Birds had shared three seasons with UDNTK FC - then still known as Kim Tae Hee FC - in II.2, where they too split their wins. A Kalki Parvathaneni
hat-trick settled the clubs' latest affair, coming in the sixth round of the Birds' victorious Singapore Cup campaign a few months back, but from how UDNTK have improved their squad the most on paper at least for the S-League, Grilled would do well to be wary. Former Batok Earthquakes and Joker 9 national U-20 forward Quincy Ton was bought back from Bulgaria's *Borussia Dortmund* for over S$13.8 million, soon after the S$12.1 million purchase of prospective partner Joan Carda.
In contrast, the Birds' four clashes against Club Dinosauria have come over ten seasons ago; they stormed to the S-League for the first time on the back of a nine-match winning streak, with their man to watch having to be Spanish Number Ten Faust Salvans, who cost S$18.2 million from Fc Arsönel last season. Salvans aside, newly-appointed gaffer Heng Ah Wei will be pinning his hopes on his fellow homegrown talents Chew Long Hock, Ong Chao Ah and Abd El Rahman Abd El Khalek, who compose a formidable midfield core.