Overlooked Shahril insists he can still contribute to Lions
Left out by Stange in the last two internationals, Lions' captain admits he's frustrated
Overlooked time and again - it is 10 games now since he has completed a full 90 minutes for Singapore - national captain Shahril Ishak insists he will not turn his back on the Lions.
For a player who has proven he is capable of creating and scoring vital goals, the 31-year-old was left kicking his heels on the bench in the 2-1 defeat by Syria on Tuesday.
He was an unused substitute for the recent World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifiers against Japan and Syria at the National Stadium, which raises the question of whether national coach Bernd Stange thinks he can still play a role for the team.
"I definitely thought I had something to offer when we were down by a goal against Syria and looking for an equaliser," said Johor Darul Ta'zim II skipper Shahril, yesterday.
"Coach (Bernd Stange) has his plans which we respect but, of course, it is frustrating to sit on the bench. Which player enjoys being a cheerleader?
"I consider it an honour every time I am called up to the national team and as long as the country still needs me, I will be available."
According to the Fifa Century Club, Shahril has the most appearances for the Lions with a record 131 caps, which ties him with Thai legend Kiatisuk Senamuang as Asean's most-capped players.
But Shahril's participation in this international campaign has been minimal, with a combined total of 20 minutes in two games against Cambodia, and a first start in 10 matches when he featured against Afghanistan, although he was hauled off at half-time.
With Stange set on the midfield trio of Hariss Harun, Safuwan Baharudin and Izzdin Shafiq, and Khairul Amri leading the line when fit, it looks as if Shahril can only fit into the picture in a wider role, which is not his forte.
It is also hard to determine what Stange actually thinks of Shahril as his comments on the player have been confusing.
Before the Syria match, the 67-year-old said: "We are all not sure how long (senior players like) Shahril, Baihakki (Khaizan) and Shaiful (Esah) can deliver power, energy, fitness to our team.
"But now they are able, they are running our team... I need them to run the team for as long as they can. But they have to improve their performances, they have to be fit.
"It's not very helpful to play two years in the second division in Malaysia but the boys are amazing, how they work, and their attitude and their spirit, which they bring to our team, and that's good.
"I try to push them to do more, to stay as long as they can, and now we have to bring in new youngsters, and that's quite difficult in Singapore."
Shahril disagreed that playing in the Malaysian Premier League has dulled his abilities.
He said: "It's as tough as the Malaysian Super League where the LionsXII are playing.
"We have shown in the Malaysia Cup that we can match teams from the top division and there will be two teams from the Premier League in the quarter-finals.
"Also, our attacking midfielder Leandro (Velazquez) was loaned to JDT, played in the AFC Cup final and scored the winner, so I don't think that we have become worse players by playing in the second division.
"I understand that in football, younger players will always replace the senior ones eventually. But it seems unfair to me that I am not even given a chance to play and prove myself these days.
"Players are rated by performance and if I don't even have the chance to play, how can I prove my capability?
"Sitting on the bench definitely doesn't make one a bad player, but not even coming on as a substitute is really a huge disappointment at this point of my career."
Coach (Bernd Stange) has his plans which we respect but, of course, it is frustrating to sit on the bench.
— Shahril Ishak