Football: Undercurrent as Aw prepares to move on

Philippe Aw is ready to "face a new challenge" but hopes that Home United will continue to give chances to young players.
Philippe Aw is ready to "face a new challenge" but hopes that Home United will continue to give chances to young players.

Coach silent on claims of tension with Home management, role with Hougang most likely

Former S-League football coach Philippe Aw will leave Home United at the end of the year when his contract expires, drawing the curtains on a relationship that started in 1998 when he joined the Protectors as a player.

The 39-year-old is expected to join Hougang United, who are without a head coach after parting with K. Balagumaran in the off-season.

Aw, who retired from playing in 2002 and rejoined the club as a youth coach in 2007, confirmed his imminent departure but declined to comment on his future.

Appointed Home head coach last year, he told The Sunday Times: "I've been here for many years and it's time for a change in environment and to face a new challenge.

"The club allowed me to bring young players through the ranks. I hope they will keep giving chances to young players, especially since they have a good facility in the Home Youth Football Academy."

His exit will mark an end to a saga that started in July, when Home announced - in a Facebook post - that Aw would be reassigned as head of youth development and performance management.

Former assistant Aidil Sharin replaced him as head coach.

Surprise was the prevailing sentiment then, starting with several of the Home players, who said they found out about the coaching change only from Facebook.

Even more puzzling was the fact that the Protectors were hardly struggling in the S-League. In fact, they were fourth in the nine-team league after 16 games then - behind eventual champions Albirex Niigata, a Jermaine Pennant-led Tampines Rovers and defending champions Brunei DPMM, who were in third place only on goal difference.

Aw was also lauded for instilling an attractive style of play, while at the same time giving debuts to youngsters like Shahrin Saberin, 21, and Syahiran Miswan, 22.

The Bishan-based club finished fourth eventually, level on points with fifth-placed Geylang International.

When contacted, Home did not elaborate why Aw was reassigned, aside from saying that he had a good track record at youth level.

Yesterday, speaking on condition of anonymity, players revealed that there had been tension between the coaching staff and management, and they felt Aw had been undermined on several occasions.

They also said the club's former technical director, Frenchman Adlane Messelem, had tried to meddle with on-pitch decisions like the starting line-up. Messelem left the club last month.

One player said: "We had no problems with coach Philippe, his philosophy and the way he managed the players. Everyone was happy and we were doing well in the league.

"But we knew something was not right behind the scenes. The atmosphere was different after coach Philippe left. Training sessions were quieter and duller. Just look at how many players have left or are leaving the club."

Danish star striker Ken Ilso and playmaker Azhar Sairudin have left the club, and they are expected to be followed by Singapore internationals Khairul Nizam and Zulfahmi Arifin.

Another Home player added: "Maybe it would (have been) better if coach Philippe was left alone to do his job."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 04, 2016, with the headline 'Undercurrent as Aw prepares to move on'. Print Edition | Subscribe