There is an air of confidence at the Jurong West Stadium. A new kit supplier has come on board, a main sponsor is being lined up to headline the club and old boy Aikhena Obadin Gabriel has returned from the Young Lions to shore up the defence.
They testify that Gombak United, who finished third behind champions SAFFC and Tampines Rovers last year, are doing something right.
The Bulls have come a long way. They made their debut in 1998 and quit the S-League four years later after they finished last and were struggling financially.
The team returned in 2006 and finished eighth, but steadily improved with fourth, fifth and third in the next three seasons, and for former Gombak striker and team manager Jorgen Nielsen, the transformation has been phenomenal.
“Gombak have been fantastic and I can only attribute their comeback to John’s passion for the club to build it up patiently to make it sustainable,” said Nielsen, who was the Bulls’ striker from 1998 to 2000, before taking over as team manager.
“Now I hear they will be having a main sponsor and it must be because they are attracting fans.”
According to Yap, the club’s average attendance last year was around 2,500 and he has noticed many are strong followers.
He said: “Over the last couple of years, I kept noticing many familiar faces in the stands. Our target this year is to do as well as last year, but our philosophy is always the same: Play good, attractive attacking football.”
Former Bulls captain Saswadimata Dasuki has been following the club’s progress and thinks they would be good for the title within two years.
“They’ve kept the core of their players who have been playing together for about three years now,” said Saswadimata.
“There is also financial stability and if they keep this up, they will really be a force to reckon with.”
But Gombak United Darren Stewart, down to earth as ever, said that all he hopes to do is to maintain the formula that brought the Bulls to where they are now in the first place.
“My target this year is just to come in and make sure the boys are happy every day,” he said.
“The boys have been kept together for so long, but the question that never gets asked is ‘Why?’ There’s got to be a reason, and the reason is that everyone’s happy.
“Every day, the boys are buzzing for training and buzzing for games. The most important thing for the club is its team spirit, without a question at all.
“As long as the players are happy, they’ll give everything they’ve got. It’s all about them, they’re the ones who go out and win the games; I’m just a guy sitting on the bench!”
The former Balestier Central star did allow himself a joke, when he was asked how he plans to avert a repeat of the mid-season string of draws last year that had partly cleared the way for SAFFC’s fourth consecutive league title.
“I said to the boys that if they get a draw this year, they’d be sacked!” he responded, prompting roaring laughter from everyone present.
“That kind of thing will happen again, and we’ll go on losing trots as well. We’ve played a long season with over 40 games last year, and it’s impossible to go through that and not have a bad trot.
“We weren’t downcast about it; others may have been, but not us. I just want to make sure the boys are up for every game, and if we can stay happy, we’ll be okay.”