Sundram moves Safuwan to midfield, Hariss to defence
New national coach wants Safuwan to play in midfield and Hariss in defence
It was only his second day into his new job, but new national coach V Sundramoorthy has wasted no time in moulding the team into the one he envisions.
At the national team training facility in Geylang Lorong 12 yesterday, Sundram called his defenders down for an extra training session at 6pm before the rest of the squad took to the pitch an hour later.
While Hariss Harun dutifully came in earlier, there was no sign of Safuwan Baharudin when the session started.
As Sundram prepares for his first assignment at the Aya Bank Cup in Myanmar from Friday to next Monday, it looks like he will deploy Hariss in defence and use Safuwan in a midfield role.
Although deployed mostly in midfield during his career, Hariss has played in central defence, having turned out there for his clubs from the Young Lions to the LionsXII and at Malaysian Super League (MSL) side Johor Darul Ta'zim.
Safuwan has gone in the other direction - he started out as a central defender and has been slowly moved up the pitch to midfield and even in attack.
It's in the middle of the park that Sundram believes Safuwan would be most effective.
"Safuwan will play in midfield for us, not in defence. He is useful especially in the attacking third, with his late runs into the box, and his ability in the air," said the 50-year-old, explaining his choice.
Safuwan Baharudin. Hariss Harun. PHOTO: TNP FILE, ST FILE
"Hariss has played at centre back before, and he brings with him stability. We've got a lot of options in midfield, with Izzdin Shafiq, Yasir Hanapi and Safuwan, and those boys can easily slot into midfield.
"This isn't exactly a long-term thing, because we've still got (defenders) Baihakki Khaizan, as well as Shakir Hamzah and Madhu Mohana who will be coming back, but Hariss brings with him a stability that you want in the team."
Shakir is nursing a hamstring injury and was not called up, while Madhu, who picked up a red card against Syria in a World Cup qualifier last November, will serve the second of his two-match suspension in Myanmar.
Hariss is more than willing to do the job anywhere on the pitch that Sundram deems fit.
"Wherever he thinks I'm the best at, whether it's at centre back or in midfield, I'll play and give my best. I've played there before at the club level, but not for the national team. This will be the first time," Hariss told The New Paper yesterday.
"I don't know if this is a long-term thing, but I'm prepared to play wherever he thinks I can best contribute."
Safuwan has struggled to find form at his MSL club PDRM, where he is deployed in attacking positions, but he believes that further up the pitch is where he is comfortable now.
"It's been tough, because I'm expected to create chances as well as score goals. It wasn't like before at the LionsXII where my teammates would feed the ball to me," he said.
"But I haven't played at centre back for almost a year now, and I'm comfortable playing where I am now."
Zulfadli replaces Noh Rahman
Warriors FC captain Zulfadli Zainal Abidin did not look out of place at the Geylang Lorong 12 training field, walking into the national team's training facility with a broad smile yesterday.
The left-sided defender has been called up to V Sundramoorthy's national squad in place of Tampines Rovers' veteran defender Noh Rahman.
Noh, 35, withdrew from the squad on Saturday, deciding to call time on his international career so he can focus on preparing for life after football.
"Zul is a good lad who is hardworking and honest. He always gives nothing less than 100 per cent every time he walks on the pitch," said Sundram. "He's a good addition to the squad."
Zulfadli said: "It's always good to be called up and I have to work hard to prove that I deserve the call-up." - SHAMIR OSMAN