DPMM FC will be stepping up their preparations ahead of the start of the Singapore Premier League (SPL) campaign with two friendly matches against Cambodian opposition during a pre-season tour in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from today until February 5.
The Gegar Gegar men will meet Visakha FC at the Visakha Stadium tomorrow before concluding their six-day tour against PKR Svay Rieng at the EDC Stadium on February 4.
Both opponents occupied the top two positions in the Cambodian League, the country’s top flight, last season with PKR Svay Rieng winning the league title.
The Brunei-based outfit that left for Cambodia yesterday comprised 24 players as well as 10 management officials and coaching staff.
The team feature at least four fresh faces including three new goalkeepers Azriel Arman, Pengiran Muizzuddin Pengiran Ismail and Emerson Jose as well as forward Hariz Danial Khallidden, all of whom harbour ambitions to make the cut in the final squad selection.
DPMM FC head coach Adrian Pennock will be looking at the fitness levels of the players adding that he will not be deeply concerned about the result.
“It will be two hard games but I’m just looking for fitness of the players which is important. I don’t really take any notice of results in pre-season. I’m also looking at our shape and organisation,” said Pennock, whose side did not register a single victory during their pre-season friendly tour in Thailand last year.
The head coach has been pleased with the dedication shown by the players in training as they look to mount a title defence.
“The boys have been working very hard in pre-season. We had two or three sessions a day and they have been giving me their all like they have always done,” he said.
The club will not have influential midfielder Blake Ricciuto in their roster next season but they received a major boost as defender Charlie Clough and forward Andrei Varankou remain with the team. Ricciuto’s exit leaves one more spot in the foreign import quota.
“We lost Blake this season but we’ve got Charlie and Andrei as the foreign players of the team. We have been looking at someone from midfield or a goalkeeper.”
The club has been conducting trials since the beginning of pre-season and they are closing in their search for a new foreign player to fill in the vacancy left by Ricciuto.
“We’ve had about eight or nine players on trial and it has been trimmed down to two or three players,” he said.
The head coach also emphasised that it is a fresh start as players will be battling for places in the team that will feature in the new season.
“It doesn’t matter what they’ve done last season. It’s a clean slate for everybody. Obviously, most of the players from last year are here. We also have young Brunei players coming over. Everybody is playing for a contract.”
He added, “There are two or three players that have surprised me which I’m very pleased with.”
The head coach also highlighted the possibility of assembling a younger squad compared to last year. “I’m looking for young players coming through and I want them to come in and excite me and hopefully get a contract. I would love to get more young players through.”
The head coach indicated that the players have the opportunity to shine in the Cambodia tour with a training session also a place where they could make their case for selection.
He also shared that the players will be taking part in the mandatory test as required for participation in the SPL when they return from Cambodia, adding that he has no such concerns of his players not making it through.
He said, “I have no worries about that. The boys are very fit. They can still get fitter because it is still fairly early in pre-season. By the time the Singapore tests come, they will be ready.
“We are the fittest team in the league last year by miles and it is important that we are also fit this season.”
The head coach also highlighted the inclusion of new fitness coach Jason Moriarty, who previously worked for EFL League One side AFC Wimbledon, as part of the backroom staff.
“He has different ideas to Lindsay (Davis). Lindsay was fantastic for us last year and the fitness levels were very high.
“Jason comes in and carries on with the good work that Lindsay has done. He’s settling in very well and I’ve been very pleased with him.”