Football: Sundram to extend tenure with Lions?

Local coaches urge FAS to give caretaker chance to lead S'pore in Asian Cup qualifiers

Lions coach V Sundramoorthy at the International friendly match between Singapore and Myanmar. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

The Singapore football team have five 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers this year but the identity of who will coach them beyond the March 28 clash against Bahrain remains unclear.

V. Sundramoorthy, unveiled as national caretaker coach on May 27 last year, has a little more than three months left on his contract.

Apart from Bahrain, the Lions will also face Chinese Taipei and Turkmenistan in Group E of the third-round qualifiers.

Pressed on Sundram's future yesterday, a Football Association of Singapore (FAS) spokesman said: "Following the submission of all relevant reports last month, the provisional council will meet soon to deliberate and decide upon its findings."

The FAS has neither placed an advertisement looking for a national head coach, nor has it met potential candidates.

A source close to the FAS leadership said one option being considered is to extend Sundram's tenure to cover the Asian Cup qualifiers.

This would provide stability during a critical period for the national team while giving the FAS' new leaders flexibility in appointing their man for the longer term.

The FAS has to hold an election of office bearers by May this year and the new leadership - should a new slate of office bearers be elected - may yet want a say in the identity of the national coach.

This has complicated the decision-making process within the current FAS council, which has been appointed on an interim basis by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

Former national striker Aleksandar Duric, who assisted Sundram when they were at S-League club Tampines Rovers, believes that extending the latter's tenure would lead to a good outcome.

"I've worked with Sundram and I don't think there is a better candidate. He knows the local scene well enough and wouldn't need to waste time adapting and learning about the local players. The FAS has to act now, with the first match coming next month," said Duric, who now leads the ActiveSG football academy.

Hougang United coach Philippe Aw agreed. He said: "It's definitely difficult to make the call, especially with the election coming. But I hope (the council) won't leave things to the last minute.

"Sundram deserves another shot. Hiring a top-class coach might not make everything well and good right away. He will also need time to adapt. Why not give Sundram that time?"

However, some will question if Sundram is the right man to lead the Lions. After all, he led the team to their worst showing in the 20-year history of the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Cup, with one draw and two defeats.

This, despite setting the Lions a target to reach the semi-finals.

Several players were also rumoured during that tournament to be unhappy with the coach's defensive approach. Team spirit was also brittle, with veteran Baihakki Khaizan lashing out on social media at an unnamed member of the backroom staff on his Facebook page.

The 129-cap defender made only one appearance as a substitute during the ill-fated campaign.

But Duric said: "(Ex-Lions coach) Bernd Stange had more than a year to prepare for the AFF Cup and he also lost in the group stage. Sundram had only six months.

"With the confidence and peace of mind from signing a new contract, I strongly believe he can achieve something with the national team."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 09, 2017, with the headline Football: Sundram to extend tenure with Lions?. Subscribe