SINGAPORE - It has been more than six years since Raddy Avramovic was the national football coach, but he felt like he was never away.
The Serb was unveiled as Home United’s new head coach until the end of this Singapore Premier League (SPL) season at Bishan Stadium on Tuesday (July 2) and it was clear he still has a soft spot for Singapore.
The Lions’ ringmaster from 2003 to 2012, who led the Republic to three Asean titles in 2004, 2007 and 2012, will take charge of his first Singapore Premier League (SPL) game against the Young Lions at Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday.
“It’s like I never left Singapore. Just a few days were enough to make me feel like before. I’m surprised many people stopped me on the streets to welcome me back. It is a nice feeling," he said at a press conference on Tuesday
“I didn’t think too much about returning to Singapore because I don’t think anything can surprise me here. There are players I worked with who are still playing in the league and the national team. Those young players that I knew during my time here are now main players for their respective clubs.
“It is a different role, but we can try to take the club back to where they were when I was national coach. In that period, together with Tampines and Warriors, Home United were one of the top clubs in Singapore football.
“There were many national team players from Home United... the quality was there. Now, what we must do is bring that quality back and try to work together to build quality football for the club and national team.
“It will not be easy for sure but, if our intentions are good, the results should be good. It is a challenge not just for me, the players, but also everyone working at Home United.”
The 69-year-old's appointment had been one of the worst-kept secrets in Singapore football as The Straits Times had written about the move in April.
He replaces Noh Rahman, who was interim coach after the Protectors parted ways with Saswadimata Dasuki in April. Noh Rahman will stay on as assistant coach.
After leaving Singapore in 2012, Avramovic was Myanmar’s national coach in 2014 and 2015 and also briefly Kuwait’s interim coach last year.
After stints in Serbia, his last job was with Kuwait Premier League side Al Tadhamon.
With 14 points and already six losses in 12 games, Home United are currently in a disappointing sixth position in the nine-team Singapore Premier League (SPL), and Avramovic will need to work his magic immediately.
He said: “I must know the boys first, and know what I have. I still have to see the Under-18 team more. The priority is first to sort that out and see what the boys can do to be more successful.
"Maybe they are not aware what they can give. Maybe I can see something they are still not developed in and I can help them.
“Then I will look for younger players to help the team, and I must also know more about our opponents.
“Like before, my target is always to try to win the next game, and try to get the boys to play better.
“We must try to qualify for next year’s AFC Cup (either by finishing as the SPL’s top local team or winning the Singapore Cup).
"We must try. If we give up now, then what’s the point? We must have the winning mentality for every game.”
Filtering through more than 20 applicants for the post, Home United are delighted to pull of a major coup by signing Singapore’s, and indeed Asean’s, most successful national coach.
Home vice-chairman Deculan Goh, who approached Avramovic for the job, said: “Raddy has a proven track record working in Singapore and we have no doubt he is the right person for the job. More importantly, he shares our club’s vision of discipline, fitness and commitment.”
Avramovic will be reunited with stalwarts such as Shahril Ishak and Juma’at Jantan, as well as players currently in their prime, such as captain Izzdin Shafiq.
Midfielder Izzdin said: “Raddy may not be the one who gave me my first cap, but he was the first to invite me to national team training when I was still a teenager.
“He is a good choice for us. He is very good in terms of tactics, keeps things simple, and is very clear with his objectives in training which also applies to the game. We look forward to working with him and having him improve us as a team.”
Forward Adam Swandi added: “I’ve heard a lot about Raddy, but never had the opportunity to work with him. I know he has shaped many players to be great footballers and I’m looking forward to learning from him.”
Avramovic also showed he has not lost any of his sharp wit when asked why he is still working at his age.
He replied: “Working with you guys keep me young. When you work with young people, you feel different than working with older people.”