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 at Bishan Stadium yesterday as Home United's head coach until the end of the Singapore Premier League (SPL) season 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 SPL game against the Young Lions at Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.
"It's like I never left Singapore. I'm surprised many people stopped me on the streets to welcome me back. It is a nice feeling," the 69-year-old said at a press conference.
"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, whom I knew during my time here, are now main players for their clubs.
"It is a different role, but we can try to take the club back to where they were when I was national coach. Together with Tampines (Rovers) and Warriors, Home were one of the top clubs in Singapore.
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, whom I knew during my time here, are now main players for their clubs.
RADDY AVRAMOVIC, Home United coach, whose strength is his local knowledge.
BEST MAN FOR THE JOB
"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 apply to the game.
IZZDIN SHAFIQ, Home captain, who was first invited to national team training by Avramovic while he was a teenager.
"There were many national team players from Home United, the quality was there. Now, we try to work together to build quality football for the club and the national team.
"It will not be easy but, if our intentions are good, the results should be good. It is a challenge not just for me and the players, but also everyone at Home United."
His appointment had been one of the worst-kept secrets in Singapore football, with The Straits Times reporting about the move in April. His assistant is Noh Rahman, who had been interim coach after the Protectors parted ways with Saswadimata Dasuki that month.
After leaving Singapore in 2012, Avramovic was Myanmar 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.
Home, champions in 1999 and 2003, are sixth in the nine-team league and, having lost half of their 12 games, Avramovic will need to turn things around immediately.
He said: "I must know the boys first and know what I have. Then I will look for younger players to help the team and I must also know more about our opponents."
He has aimed for second-tier Asian competition next year, which can be achieved either by finishing as the top local team or by winning the Singapore Cup.
He said: "We must try to qualify for next year's AFC Cup. We must try. If we give up now, then what's the point? We must have the winning mentality for every game."
Home, who had more than 20 applicants for the job, are delighted to have pulled off a coup by signing the most successful national coach in Singapore - and Asean.
Vice-chairman Deculan Goh, who approached Avramovic, said: "Raddy has a proven track record 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 his former stalwarts such as Shahril Ishak and Juma'at Jantan, as well as players in their prime, such as captain Izzdin Shafiq.
Midfielder Izzdin, now 28, 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 apply to the game."
Forward Adam Swandi added: "I've heard a lot about Raddy, but I never had the opportunity to work with him. He has shaped many players to be great footballers and I look forward to learning from him."
Avramovic also showed he has not lost none of his wit when asked why he is still working at his age.
He replied: "It keeps me young. When you work with young people, you feel different than working with older people."