SINGAPORE - Former national football stalwart Noh Rahman got his Singapore Premier League (SPL) coaching career off to the best possible start on Wednesday (April 24), after he guided Home United to a polished 3-0 win over Geylang International.
But the 38-year-old, who took over the reins of the Protectors on an interim basis from Saswadimata Dasuki last Friday, said he hasn't had much time to bask in the maiden victory.
With a wry smile, Noh told The Straits Times on Friday (April 26): "Being a player and a coach are two very different things. As a player, you just have to focus on what you eat, how you train, and to give your best in games.
"As a coach, the minute one game ends, you're already thinking about the next game."
Noh is expecting a tougher challenge on Saturday against 2018 champions Albirex Niigata at the Jurong East Stadium.
The Japanese team went undefeated last term en route to a third straight league championship, but a new league rule has meant that for this term, Albirex have to sign at least four Singaporean players, with at least two starting and playing the entire first half.
Albirex are smarting after a 4-2 defeat by Hougang United on Wednesday - their second loss of the season - and are currently fourth in the SPL after seven games with 11 points, one ahead of Home.
Said Noh: "It's a 5.30pm kickoff, on a hard (artificial) ground, and it could be hot. We are expecting a tough game."
During a 20-year playing career which he called time on at the end of 2016, Noh earned 79 international caps as well as a reputation as being one of the most professional local footballers.
Widely respected by his peers, he won two S.League (SPL's predecessor) titles (2001, 2002), two Singapore Cups (2012, 2013) and two AFF Suzuki Cups (2004, 2007).
The former defender told ST that one of the first things he did after being appointed Home's interim coach, was to consult a group of six senior players.
"It was quite a lengthy meeting where we shared quite a lot of things, and I appreciate the players being honest," said the rookie coach.
Veteran fullback Juma'at Jantan, 35, was one of the players involved in the meeting.
Said Juma'at: "In football, one of the most important things is communication. If we have that, things will fall in place.
"Noh is a no-nonsense type on and off the field, and the players - even myself now - look up to him. And he is open (to feedback) as well, so I think he is the best choice to lead the team for now."
Juma'at is one of four players in the current Home squad - the others are Izzdin Shafiq, Abdil Qaiyyim and South Korean midfielder Song Ui-Yong - who were teammates with Noh when he played for the Protectors from 2013 to 2015.
When asked if he felt weird coaching players he once shared a pitch and changing room with, Noh said: "Yes, a little bit!
"But these players are great, they know where the line between a coach and the players is. And I appreciate the fact they understand their roles in the team well."
Protectors youngster Adam Swandi recalled that Noh was one of the established senior national players when he received his first Lions call-up in 2013.
The 23-year-old, who scored against Geylang on Wednesday, said: "Coach Noh has a lot of experience, and he is a role model for players like me.
"He has so much to offer our team and Singapore football, and I think him being in charge of the team now is a good thing."
Noh said he has been told by the club it would appoint the new head coach within six weeks, and is looking forward to returning his role at the start of the season, which he said was "to assist and learn".
"I'm not shy in saying I feel I am not ready for a head coach job like this," said Noh. "But it's a challenge I am ready to take on."