Tampines Rovers v Warriors FC
Jurong West Stadium, 7.30pm
Midway through training on Thursday, Tampines Rovers coach V. Sundramoorthy, who was observing his team from afar, was approached by a middle-aged man.
The man, who gave his name as Vijay, gushed about Sundram's bicycle kick goal against Brunei in 1993. The man nicknamed "the Dazzler" smiled and regaled memories of a happier time. But talk to Sundram about Tampines' current cash flow woes and the coach immediately wore a serious look.
Last week, it was revealed that Stags chairman Krishna Ramachandra had asked the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for advances on subsidies due to the team. The FAS said it will help but only "within the prescribed guidelines and regulatory framework".
Preferring not to wade into affairs concerning the management, he told The Straits Times: "As a coach, I'm just focused on what I can do - which is to prepare the team. This I can talk about."
Star signing Jermaine Pennant said it is inevitable that players' morale will take a hit in light of the club's problems.
The former Arsenal and Liverpool man said: "In any job, whether you're a banker, a footballer, or a reporter, when you hear rumours that you're not getting your wages, sure, (uncertainty) creeps in. It cracks into some people because you need to pay the bills. It's not good for players' morale to hear this.
WAGING A BATTLE AGAINST UNCERTAINTY
In any job, whether you're a banker, a footballer, or a reporter, when you hear rumours that you're not getting your wages, sure, (uncertainty) creeps in.
JERMAINE PENNANT, Tampines Rovers winger, on the impact the state of his club's cash-flow problems has had on his team.
"But I'm sure there won't be any hiccups. We don't know much (about the cash-flow issues) but as professionals we got to do our job."
Tampines are second in the S-League with 17 points, six behind leaders Albirex Niigata, who have played two games more.
They take on Warriors FC today at the Jurong West Stadium. It remains to be seen if they can lift themselves after a 2-3 loss to Bangladeshi side Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi in the Asian Football Confederation Cup on Tuesday.
Sundram said: "We conceded four penalties in our last (three defeats), so we need to be more careful. But for me it boils down to us. We can prepare the team well but the team needs to show up. If they do I am confident we can win."
He also rejected criticism that the team have not been living up to the pre-season hype.
"It's still early. The boys are motivated and I know they want to fight for every (trophy)," said the tactician, who masterminded the LionsXII's 2013 Malaysian Super League win.
It is a sentiment shared by Pennant. The Englishman said: "People should stop making judgments. You don't win the league in the first few months.
"What matters most is where we finish. I'm not worried (by the team's form). If we win our games in hand we're level on points and as long as we keep staying up there we'll be ok."
Against the Warriors, the Stags will be without Canadian winger Jordan Webb, who is injured, while Pennant could also sit out with a hamstring problem.
But defender Afiq Yunos is confident of his team's ability to do the job without their foreign attackers.
He said: "We have the quality. As long as we stay firm at the back, don't let (Warriors striker Jonathan) Behe get a sight of goal, we should have the firepower to win."