Hot-seat contenders clash tonight
Fandi declines comment, Kraljevic says it's nice to be considered
Two Singapore Premier League (SPL) coaches tipped as potential candidates to helm the national football team will meet at Toa Payoh Stadium today.
Since it was announced that V Sundram Moorthy had stepped down as the national coach, the Young Lions' Fandi Ahmad and Balestier Khalsa's Marko Kraljevic have emerged as possible contenders for the job.
Kraljevic, who is good friends with Sundram, told The New Paper: "Sundram is one of the best coaches in Singapore, so it's very sad that he's stepping down.
|BALESTIER KHALSA||YOUNG LIONS|
"To lead the national team is not as easy job and I thought he was actually making progress (after last month's 3-2 friendly win over the Maldives)."
Kraljevic admitted he was surprised to hear his name among the likely candidates for the role, though.
Said the 52-year-old, who has lived in Singapore for close to 25 years: "It was nice to hear that. It's every coach's dream to lead the national team and it's an honour to even be considered."
A third candidate tipped for the role, Home United coach Aidil Sharin, agreed with Kraljevic, but refused to read into the speculation.
"Honestly, I didn't even think anything of it," Aidil said.
"My focus is on Home and to do well with the club. Ultimately, it's up to the Football Association of Singapore to decide."
When approached during the Young Lions' training at Geylang Field yesterday, Fandi declined to comment on the matter but the 55-year-old was happy to talk about his young charges' flourishing start to the season.
Unbeaten in their first two games, the Young Lions have surpassed last season's record of just one win in 24 games.
While they sit at the top of the nine-team SPL table, ahead of Albirex Niigata on goal difference, Fandi does not want his team to harp on their early successes.
"It's nice to start off with two wins, but results are not all that we're looking out for," he insisted. I always tell these boys that they're not the best and besides, it's still too early into the season. We'll only know where they really stand when we reach mid-season."
That said, Fandi is delighted with the progress the Young Lions have shown.
He said: "Technically, we're not the best, but we make up for it with our hard work, determination and teamwork.
"Most importantly, they must put their feet on the ground firmly because it's still a long way to go."
Midfielder Joshua Pereira, who missed almost the whole of last season due to injury, is pleased with the direction they are heading.
"Personal achievements aside, the team have been nothing but fantastic," said Pereira, who scored the first goal in their opening 2-0 win over Hougang.
"Everyone has been working hard for one another, so our team spirit and togetherness to prove something more this season has shown so far."
The Young Lions are also adopting an attacking approach under Fandi's coaching - a change that players admitted took them a while to get used to.
Among those Fandi has pushed forward is former right-back Rusyaidi Salime.
He has been redeployed in central midfield, where Fandi believes he thrives better due to his ball control.
Said Rusyaidi: "Honestly, when coach Fandi took over, it was hard to play to his attacking-based plan.
"But, since pre-season, we've really tactically matured under him and we're not afraid to play against bigger and more experienced players."
Leading the Young Lions backline this time is Fandi's eldest son Irfan, who has also proven to be a mainstay with the Lions.
Said Irfan, who feels that their 1-0 win over Warriors FC showed their abilities: "In our first game, people might say that we won it due to luck.
"But against the Warriors, who are a big club with so many experienced players, we played really well and, in the end, it's about who wins."
Then, he cheekily added: "Also since we're top table now, my aim is to just stay there all the way."