Stewart expects Qiu to make Tigers impact

Balestier Khalsa coach Darren Stewart is expecting big things from new signing Qiu Li in the upcoming Great Eastern-YEO's S.League season.

Qiu fending off the Kitchee defender.
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

The Tigers had an impressive 2012 as they ended the campaign 6th in the league in Stewart's first season in charge, a remarkable improvement from their third-from-bottom finish the year before.

Under the ex-Australia international, they quickly gained a reputation for being a resilient and tactically-sound unit and had the best defensive record in the competition, conceding just 20 goals in 23 games.

However, where Balestier struggled was up front as they only managed to find the net 23 times - the joint-third worst tally out of all 13 teams.

Nonetheless, they managed to pull off a real coup by signing ex-Home United star Qiu, who was part of the Singapore side that recently won the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup, and Stewart is expecting him to make a positive impact on and off the field.

"That's why he's come here," he told FOX Sports when asked if the 31-year-old would add a different dimension to the Tigers attack. "He's been fully fit for a few days.

"I think he had five shots on target in the second half [of Thursday's 2-0 pre-season friendly win over Courts Young Lions]. What else can you ask for?"

"He's a quality person, not just a good footballer. I've gotten to know him well and am delighted to have him with us.

"There are a lot of people that are negative about him but you'll never find me being negative about the lad. He's one of the most gifted footballers I've worked with and, as I've said, a really good person."

Although Thursday's victory over Young Lions, which came courtesy of goals from second-half goals from Tengku Mushadad and Jaslee Hatta, was a positive start to their pre-season campaign, Stewart insisted it was too early to make any predictions about the coming season.

"This is our first pre-season friendly," he added. "It's hard to tell after one game.

"But overall I'm pleased with the performance and the effort; the fitness levels are good. I'm looking forward to working with the boys again.

"They're all top lads here and the ones we've brought in are good people."

Apart from Qiu, another notable new face at the Toa Payoh Stadium is centre-back Obadin Aikhena, who captained Gombak United last season but was left searching for a new club after the Bulls decided to sit out the 2013 campaign.



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