PETALING JAYA: Premier League side Negri Sembilan aim to defy the odds with a bunch of rookies.
This is the tough challenge facing the new-look Negri team under Australian coach Gary Philips in the Premier League this season.
They did make three notable local signings in former international goalkeeper Syed Adney Syed Hussein (from Armed Forces), defender Mohd Nasriq Baharom (Felda United) and striker Mohd Afiq Azmi (Selangor).
But with a young set of players, including five Under-21 boys, it’ll be tough for Negri to win promotion to the Super League.
Syed Adney is optimistic Negri have what it takes to give their rivals a run for their money when the league kicks off next month.
“I have been with the team for the last two weeks and the signs have been positive and encouraging. The environment is good and the younger players are willing to learn. There is no reason why we can’t challenge for the top two spots,” he said.
Philips, who coached Sabah from 2009 to 2011, has strengthened the squad with four foreign signings – defender Taylor Reagan (Australia), midfielders Alex Smith (England) and Andrew Nabbout (Australia) and striker Joel Chianese (Australia).
The others teams in the Premier League are Kuala Lumpur, Sime Darby FC, Sabah, UiTM FC, DRB Hicom, JDT II, Malacca, Perlis, Kuantan FA and PKNS FC.
Armed Forces and T-Team are involved in the playoff, with the loser joining the Premier League.
Negri’s last piece of silverware was the Malaysia Cup, which they won in 2011. They were relegated to the Premier League in 2013.
Last season, they finished fifth in the league and were first-round casualties in the FA Cup. They also lost out in the playoffs to qualify for the 16-team Malaysia Cup.
The Negri squad
Goalkeepers: Syed Adney Syed Hussein, Afiff Aizad Azman, Mohd Kaharuddin Abd Rahman.
Defenders: Taylor Regan, Mohd Ashmawi Yakin, Annas Rahmat, Mohd Shazlan Alias, Mohd Nasriq Baharom, Hariri Mohd Safii, Daniel Ting.
Midfielders: Andrew Nabbout, Alex Smith, Sabri Sahar, Mohd Izzudin Zainudin, R. Aroon Kumar, Khairul Anwar Shahrudin, Shahrul Iqwan Samsudin, Muhd Nizam Mohd Ruslan, Mohd Norfizzuan Jailani, Kevin Gunter.
Mohd Rahizi Rasib, Muhd Afiq Azmi, Joel Chianese.