It all boils down to results, says Sundram
Singapore's new football coach talks about his priorities, the style he will adopt and his big regret
REPORTING FROM YANGON
1 You are on a one-year deal, but surely you aim to stay as Singapore coach beyond May 2017. What are your immediate priorities and what is your long-term goal?
SUNDRAM: The most important thing for me now is going to the ground and keeping track of the performance of various players, their form, the injury situation and making sure they are well looked after.
For the Suzuki Cup in November, we want to go as far as possible, but to qualify for the semi-finals is the first challenge we have set for ourselves.
Of course, I feel I'm up for the challenge to take the national team for the longer term and my ambition as national coach is to win as many matches and as many trophies as possible for the country.
2 There were some surprises in your first squad. You left out stalwarts like Mustafic Fahrudin, Ismadi Mukhtar and Christopher van Huizen from your former club Tampines, and Geylang International's Faritz Abdul Hameed, who is no stranger to the national fold. What is your guiding principle in selecting players?
Within a short time, I have called up this set of players, we will see how they perform and whether they deserve to keep their place in the team.
Noh Rahman, Azhar Sairudin and Amy Recha are good examples of those who have played well consistently and received call-ups. If they keep performing, coaches will not be able to ignore them.
Questions will be asked by other coaches, players and the media of every squad I select and I accept it as fair comment. But the door is still open to all, whether you are a senior or a young player.
Everybody still stands a chance. We are six months away from the Suzuki Cup. If a player performs well, why wouldn't I call him up?
3 Your predecessor Bernd Stange tried to convince S.League clubs to play a certain way based on short passes and building play up from the back, in a bid to make it a permanent Singapore style. What do you think?
Can you go to Manchester United and tell Jose Mourinho to play the style Roy Hodgson wants to play?
Club coaches have their own jobs to do, their own style, let them do what they want because their jobs are on the line.
4 Critics feel that most of your teams adopt a hit-and-hope approach? Is that fair?
We are in a results-oriented world. With international games, we have to be practical, take one game at a time and create a game plan according to the opponents.
If we are going to meet Japan, South Korea, Australia, then we will approach it in a different way compared to games against opponents from South-east Asia.
We would like to entertain our fans, push up and play exciting football. But people must understand results are also very important.
5 Fandi Ahmad will be assisting you for now. Can this arrangement be turned into a permanent combination, or are you still looking for a permanent assistant coach?
Fandi and I are good friends, we have no problems getting along with each other and, as coaches, we go about our jobs professionally.
Let us settle the AYA Bank Cup in Myanmar first. It is a tight time frame as I was appointed only on Friday, so let's finish this tournament first.
There is always the possibility we can work together in the future.
6 You signed for Swiss side FC Basel when you were just 23. Why didn't you continue playing in Europe?
An Indian businessman, a Swiss-Malaysian, was in Singapore for a business trip when he saw me play and wanted to take me to Basel.
Both of us took a chance with each other and we went to Switzerland. I played for two clubs there actually, FC Basel in the first division and Old Boys Basel in the second division.
It was good exposure with the new country, new culture, new language. I picked up a bit of Swiss-German here and there, but I've lost it now. I scored a few goals and everything was smooth.
But I was young and half a world apart from my family and friends, and then I got offers from Malaysia, which is nearer to home and has very similar food and culture. I chose the easy way out.
I made the decision to leave, to come back to my comfort zone, which I can say now is a mistake. I should have stayed on.
7 You hung up your boots at the age of 38 in 2003. Why did you decide to be a coach?
Before I was appointed Jurong FC player-coach in 1999, I already had my 'A' Licence. I had already prepared myself to get all my coaching certificates by then.
I have always had my vision and opinions about football. The only way I can express them is by being a coach.
8 Who are your biggest influences as a coach?
I had Bernard Norbert when I was young, Jita Singh, Hussain Aljunied, Seak Poh Leong and Milous Kvacek with Kedah and the national team.
At Pahang, I also played for Keith Burkinshaw who led Tottenham to two FA Cups and the Uefa Cup in the 1980s.
Along the way, I would pick up certain things from different coaches.
For example, I saw how Hussain won the players over during his era with his man-management, and he won games with set-plays.
Poh Leong was the disciplinarian and he demanded it on and off the pitch. Bernard understands the game well and spends a lot of time talking to the players.
Milous did not talk as much, but trained us well. So there are things that I apply from the previous generation.
I just observe, absorb and adapt before I apply them on my own teams.
9 Now that you are the national coach, do you think the Fifa rankings are a fair representation of where the Lions (148th) actually stand? That is, we are behind the Philippines (115th), Thailand (119th) and Vietnam (145th)?
The rankings are a reflection of the results the various national teams have achieved with the games they play.
The Philippines, essentially a foreign team, Thailand and Vietnam have improved a lot over the last 10 years.
On the pitch, I believe we can match any team from South-east Asia.
It is all about our performance on the day and there are many factors which could go on to determine the results.
- Sundram's Lions will be playing in the AYA Bank Cup, an international quadrangular tournament, in Myanmar from tomorrow to Monday. The squad left for Yangon yesterday and play the hosts tomorrow. Depending on results, Singapore will then play either Hong Kong or Vietnam on Monday.
Two minor tourneys can restore confidence in S'pore football, says Leonard Thomas
The international quadrangular in Myanmar won't have quite the excitement and intensity of the Suzuki Cup and, while the inaugural Nations Cup in Malacca features Thailand, Vietnam, hosts Malaysia and Singapore, the Under-21 tournament will naturally not resonate as much with fans.
The outcome in both tournaments will mean much to Singapore football, though.
This is all about restoring belief among the stakeholders here, especially the fans.
Unveiled last Friday as the new national coach, V Sundramoorthy will be desperate to start off his one-year tenure with a positive performance in Myanmar.
It will breed confidence in his Lions and bolster his own faith.
Crucially, it will also be the first sign that these Lions have substance.
Much has been made of the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) current technical department headed by the highly regarded Belgian, Michel Sablon.
Charged to revamp the development structure in the country and install a pipeline that consistently produces talented young footballers and coaches, Sablon unveiled his blueprint on Monday.
The performance of the Singapore Under-21s in Malaysia will blow wind in the sails of the youth development programme and also give some cause for optimism ahead of next year's South-east Asia Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Sundram's predecessor Bernd Stange guided the national team into the third round of qualifiers (scheduled next year) for the 2019 Asian Cup Finals but, after a disastrous defence of the 2014 Suzuki Cup on home soil and inconsistent, sometimes plodding football, the German left his post with little fanfare.
Sundram will have had less than a week with his men before they kick off tomorrow against Myanmar, it will be difficult, especially facing the hosts, but a performance of panache and daring will do very nicely.
With talented Tardy guiding them, the U-21s produced some good results when they finished third in the Newspaper Cup last year in Vietnam and, after two good performances against their Iranian counterparts in March, they seem to be improving all the time.
Out of the 24-strong squad, 16 are from the Garena Young Lions and, after half-a-season facing mostly bigger and better opponents in the S.League, they should be in better shape.
Sablon and his lieutenants made the move to field an even younger developmental team in the S.League - it was previously an Under-23 side - and the progress made must show starting tomorrow, when the U-21s take on their Malaysian counterparts at the Hang Jebat Stadium.
Football-mad Singaporeans will be gearing for the European Championship, with every game broadcast "live" here.
I'm sure there will be groups making the trek to France to cheer on their favourites.
Exactly one week before the big kick-off in Paris, the Lions and the Singapore U-21s will begin another chapter in Yangon and Malacca.
Nowhere near as glamorous, it won't even cause a ripple outside of this region.
But don't underestimate how important the two tournaments are for Singapore football.
- LEONARD THOMAS