Tigers ready to surprise White Swans

Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic overseeing his side's preparations before facing Albirex. He is not under pressure despite the Tigers languishing near the foot of the table.
Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic overseeing his side's preparations before facing Albirex. He is not under pressure despite the Tigers languishing near the foot of the table.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

While some clubs fire coaches at the slightest dip in results, Balestier Khalsa have kept faith in Marko Kraljevic despite their unfavourable position in the S-League.

In his third season in charge, his men lie second-last on 14 points in the nine-team table - only five points above the cellar-dwellers Garena Young Lions. The latter lost 0-2 to Geylang International yesterday at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

But Balestier chairman S. Thavaneson still has faith in the German-Croat, who led the team to a fourth-placed finish (among 10 teams) last year and sixth the year before that, when the competition had 12 teams. Ahead of their clash against table-toppers Albirex Niigata at Jalan Besar tonight, he told The Straits Times: "He has full confidence from me as chairman to do his job as a coach.

"Marko and I have known each other since his playing days for the club (1996-1998). He's someone who understands the club culture and he knows how to work within constraints.

"Since he's joined the club, he's done well for us and honestly this season isn't that bad. Marko has done wonders in his time here. We're just having a rocky season now, with injuries especially."

Now a Singapore permanent resident, Kraljevic appreciates the club's support. The 50-year-old said: "I'm quite a lucky man.

"I'm fortunate to be at a club like Balestier where they understand the situation and don't unnecessarily interfere with the way I work. I've never been afraid of my job being on the line.

"It's always a natural question that arises in this situation - will the club sack someone who's not performing? But the management have not put pressure on me and I'm very happy here."

Despite facing the league leaders, he insists he and his men are under no pressure tonight. He said: "It'll be tough for us, especially at Jalan Besar where we don't have the homeground advantage. But we have nothing to lose and all to gain.

"My strikers (Niko Tokic and Miroslav Kristic) are fit and ready, and the team are in a good mood. There's no pressure. We'll go in and give everything we have. With this attitude, we could possibly spring a surprise on them."

Yogaraj Panditurai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2016, with the headline 'Tigers ready to surprise White Swans'. Print Edition | Subscribe