Lion City Sailors still targeting SPL title when play resumes

Aurelio Vidmar says Lion City's goals have not changed and will need momentum to make a move in the standings. Francois Nel/Getty Images

Lion City Sailors coach Aurelio Vidmar is still gunning for the Singapore Premier League title in 2020 despite a slow start and no news about a restart date.

After just two games with Vidmar at the helm, the SPL was brought to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic with Sailors currently lying second from bottom after a draw and a loss -- although they played fewer matches than other clubs.

A restart date for the competition has not been announced although some training could be resuming soon after government restrictions start easing on Friday.

"It's been a very strange season," Vidmar told ESPN in an exclusive interview. "Our first game was supposed to be against Brunei (DPMM) but they didn't want to travel [to Singapore], so we had to wait an extra week. Then, we played Tanjong Pagar United and then had 14 days between that and our next game against Tampines Rovers. We had absolutely zero momentum."

The Lion City Sailors were launched as Singapore football's newest club earlier this year and immediately made a statement hiring Vidmar, a former Australia captain who boasts managerial experience in the A-League and Thai League 1 along with a heading up the Socceroos.

The Sailors have managed just one goal so far in two matches and have given up five. Vidmar -- who returned home to Australia during the lockdown period -- believes their preseason targets have not changed.

"I always knew that it would take us about three or four rounds to hit out straps so nothing's changed in terms of our goals," Vidmar said. "We're still trying to be the champions although the start hasn't been great, and I know once we get that extra two or three games we'll be in the position we need to be."

The Lion City Sailors' ambitions are extending beyond this season.

Last week, they launched their youth academy which features an investment of more than $1 million over four years to nurture elite talent.

Vidmar is no stranger to youth development after leading Australia's U-23 side for six years and argues patience will be key.

"I think it'll take time," Vidmar said. "Most of these things don't take one or two years. All those big nations like Spain, Germany, Belgium more recently, with their golden generations, that took them ten to 12 years to bear any fruit."

Vidmar sees no reason why Singapore football cannot follow in the footsteps of regional rivals like Thailand and have exports playing in bigger Asian leagues or even Europe.

"We have 25 guys at 12 years old," Vidmar said. "... in four years' time, we'd like to have a closer look at them to see if they're ready for first-team football. And if you're good enough, then you're old enough."