They finished last in the league in 2010, but if Woodlands Wellington should suffer the same fate again next year, they will not stand for preparing too late being used as an excuse.
The Rams became only the third team to commence their schedule of pre-season friendly matches, following the examples of next-to-bottom Hougang United, still getting used to the name change from Sengkang Punggol, and former champions SAFFC.
Woodlands, in their first trial game, faced Hougang at the ITE East campus in Simei in mid-December and went down 1-3 to a side that had played trials of their own twice already.
In the circumstances it was a fair effort, and new head coach R. Balasubramaniam was already pretty clear on who he wanted to sign for the season ahead, he said.
“Most of the other clubs have already signed all their foreigners, even though they are not all in the country yet,” explained the affable man.
“We have a couple of Brazilians arriving after the holiday period. It’s too expensive for them to come any sooner that that.
“We’ve got some Africans we are looking at too, but the issue with them is work permits, of course.”
Former Home United man Azhar Sairudin, who has been showing good form already in pre-season, opened the scoring for Hougang early in the game at Simei, and then in the second half clinical finishes from both Mamadou Diallo and Mohd Noor Ali made it 3-0.
Former Singapore Recreation Club star striker Robert Eziakor, who has been training with Woodlands, headed in a fine cross from busy flanker Ali Imran Lomri midway through the second half to reduce the arrears.
Eziakor was one of the few foreign triallists to impress Balasubramaniam, who was also running the rule over several others looking to land a deal.
Hougang had drawn 1-1 with visiting Tokyo University at SAFRA Tampines in their opening trial, with Diallo on target, but then suffered a setback when downed 0-3 by Sabah FA at Meridian Junior College.
SAFFC, still without most of their foreigners and their national team members, began their own trials with a match against Sabah and came from two goals down early in the second half to record a spirited 3-2 win, thanks to goals from Rhysh Roshan Rai, newcomer Luka Savic and Erwan Gunawan, who were then all rested for the remainder of the match.
When SAFFC met Hougang on Boxing Day at Jalan Besar Stadium a better yardstick might have been obtained, but as it turned out nobody could draw many conclusions from a match where both sides rang in the changes throughout.
Hougang won 2-1 on paper, with a delightful free kick from Noor Ali and a goal scored direct from a corner by Duncan Elias cancelling out a nicely-struck Indra Sahdan volley early in the second half.
Many of the Warriors’ Prime League players, including a goalkeeper, were sent on for the latter stages, with the more experienced Savic, Roshan, Indra and Mustaqim Manzur coming off.
Hougang made changes too but mostly left their older players out on the field.
It was a good workout for both clubs, and SAFFC had some of their returning players looking on from the sidelines.
Woodlands also had another game on Christmas Day at Detford Ground against a composite amateur side and ran out easy 13-0 winners, so nothing can be drawn from that match either.
They are scheduled for a somewhat more meaningful test at Woodlands Stadium against Singapore Pools FA Cup winner Singapore Cricket Club on New Year’s Eve, after which Balasubramaniam hinted he would be fairly close to naming his squad for the 2011 campaign.