Tough first challenge for Sailors' new coach Kim

Lion City Sailors coach Kim Do-hoon and new signing Hariss Harun during a training session. The South Korean, who was appointed in May, believes his men have been improving every week.
Lion City Sailors coach Kim Do-hoon and new signing Hariss Harun during a training session. The South Korean, who was appointed in May, believes his men have been improving every week.PHOTO: LION CITY SAILORS

Lion City Sailors coach Kim Do-hoon and his team's newest signing Hariss Harun have barely settled into life at their new club but are set for a baptism of fire at the Jurong East Stadium today.

The Sailors face Singapore Premier League (SPL) title rivals and leaders Albirex Niigata with both sides knowing a victory will shift the title momentum in their favour after the league resumed last week following the lengthy international break.

Defending champions Albirex are on 27 points, one more than the Sailors, with 10 games of the season remaining.

Having led Ulsan Hyundai to victory in the Asian Champions League last year, Kim was appointed on a 21/2-year contract in May to replace Australian Aurelio Vidmar and he took charge of his first training session last month.

The South Korean, who celebrated his 51st birthday earlier this week, said via an interpreter: "Yes, this game is important but so is every game because right now, we are known as just challengers for the title.

"It is important that in these (10) matches, we can show that we deserve to be title winners."

Singapore national captain Hariss is also keen to impress his new employers.

The midfielder, who spent seven trophy-laden seasons with Malaysian giants Johor Darul Takzim, joined on a 3 ½-year deal in May. The 30-year-old, who has yet to win domestic silverware, should start against the White Swans and acknowledged the tough task awaiting his team.

The Japanese club, league champions four times in the past five years, are the only unbeaten team in the SPL this term. The Sailors have also failed to win in their last three encounters against Albirex.

"This game really is very important," said Hariss.

"There aren't many games left so at this stage, every single game and every single point counts.

"They have been the one that all the local teams have tried to beat and they've been a tough nut to crack so far, so it's not going to be easy, but we aim to be the better team at the end of the 90 minutes."

Albirex head coach Keiji Shigetomi knows the upcoming match could push his players to their limits but is looking forward to a personal duel in the dugout.

He said: "Hariss and coach Kim's addition will no doubt strengthen them. There are also many national and star players in their team. So we have to be ready and focus all our energy on this match."

While the Sailors are unbeaten in their last eight matches and are on a six-game winning run, Kim noted that he has seen improvements in the team over the last few weeks.

"Compared to the first time when I watched videos of the team and now, I would say that a lot has changed," he said.

"I have seen development in the players each week. Everyone is working for one another and that is how it should be at the Sailors."

First-team players - Shahdan Sulaiman, Saifullah Akbar and Song Ui-young - will miss the match through suspensions but the Sailors have a host of other attacking options like Brazilian Diego Lopes, Gabriel Quak, Faris Ramli and Stipe Plazibat.

Clutching his head to mimic a headache, Kim said: "You should know from that reaction how hard it is (to pick a starting XI)."

"In just a few weeks, I think we have made a lot of improvements. It's vital we show that against Albirex."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2021, with the headline 'Tough first challenge for Sailors' new coach Kim'. Subscribe