Safuwan good enough for A-league
Ex-Malaysia Cup star Alistair Edwards says he would sign the LionsXII captain if he was back coaching in Australia
A year ago, Singapore international and LionsXII defender Safuwan Baharudin made known his desire to play in Australia's A-League.
The 22-year-old might just get what he wished for.
Last month, former Malaysia Cup star Alistair Edwards (left) watched Safuwan in action as the LionsXII thumped Pahang, then leaders of the Malaysian Super League (MSL), 4-1 at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Edwards, 45, had already heard rave reviews of the lanky defender, and, after watching him play for the first time, the former Lions striker understands why great things are being predicted for Safuwan.
The former Socceroo, who coached A-League club Perth Glory in 2012 and 2013, says he wouldn't hesitate to sign Safuwan if he was in charge of an A-League team.
Speaking to The New Paper recently, Edwards, who commentated on the match for Malaysia's Astro Arena, said: "That LionsXII game was actually the first 'live' game I've watched in Singapore since 1994.
"I didn't know what to expect from the LionsXII, but I must say Safuwan was very impressive.
"He's one Singapore player I would look to bring to the A-League. I only saw him in that one game, but he looked calm, assured, and was very intelligent with his movement."
Edwards was a member of Singapore's 1993 "Dream Team", alongside V Sundramoorthy, Fandi Ahmad, Abbas Saad and Malek Awab, which just missed out on winning the Malaysia Cup, losing 2-0 to Kedah in the final.
The former striker, who won the Golden Boot in two spells with the Lions in 1990 and 1993, also singled out goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud and defender Madhu Mohana for praise.
"It was nice to see Fandi coaching as well," Edwards added.
"I was really surprised to learn that (midfielder) Aqhari Abdullah is Abdullah Noor's son. Abdullah was a teammate of mine, and I think Aqhari did his father proud with his performance."
After his first stint for Singapore in 1990, Edwards crossed the Causeway and won the double with Johor in 1991, before returning in 1993.
He turned out for Selangor in 1994 and was a talisman at Sarawak as well, helping them to their only league title in 1997.
Besides his seven seasons in the region, he enjoyed spells in Europe with Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers in 1987/1988 and English clubs Brighton & Hove Albion (1989-1990) and Millwall (1995-1996).
Edwards' international career saw him score three goals in 19 caps for his country.
"So much has changed in the Malaysian league since my playing days," he remarked.
"But you can't compare the football now to a time when you had Fandi, Malek, Nazri (Nasir) and Sundram playing.
"You're talking about top quality; a different league, really."
Edwards identified the lack of strikers as a conspicuous problem in Singapore football.
It is an issue which, he says, plagues Australia as well.
"The A-League currently allows five foreign players, and I understand that's the same with the S.League, too," Edwards said.
"That's good for the league commercially, but not for development. I think a good balance is three (foreign players), or three plus one, like in the MSL.
"One way to work around the issue is to send youngsters away on attachment.
"But if Singapore's youngsters go to Australia or Europe, they have to play regularly.
"Honestly, one or two from the LionsXII can actually cut it in the A-League, or at least in the second tier (National Premier League).
"They just have to be brave and venture out there."
He’s one Singapore player I would look to bring to the A-League. I only saw him in that one game, but he looked calm, assured, and was very intelligent with his movement.
— Former Malaysia Cup star Alistair Edwards on LionsXII’s captain Safuwan Baharudin
'Singapore my second home'
It was a whirlwind 24-hour visit, but Alistair Edwards experienced enough here to remind him of just how much he missed Singapore.
The Australian, a former Malaysia Cup striker for the Lions in 1990 and 1993, was in town last month with Astro Arena to commentate on the LionsXII-Pahang Malaysian Super League match.
Before and after the game at the Jalan Besar Stadium, the 45-year-old signed autographs and spoke to old teammates.
They all had the same question for him - would he come back here and coach?
"I've always been planning to come back to Singapore, it's my second home," said Edwards, who once struck up a famous strike partnership with Abbas Saad for the Lions.
"I'm just deciding on the right time. There are a number of coaching opportunities for me in Malaysia and Australia, but nothing from Singapore, yet.
"I do miss the time I spent here. It was fantastic coming back and seeing old friends."
Edwards hung up his boots in 2002, at the age of 34, and began his coaching career with the Football Federation of Australia (FFA), starting out as the assistant coach of the women's Under-20 side in 2004.
He went on to become the assistant technical director and coach for the FFA youth teams from 2007 to 2012.
The former Australian international made a foray into the A-League when he took charge of Perth Glory in 2012.
He was sacked after 11 months when he fell out with several players as well as Perth Glory owner, Tony Sage.
"It was a disagreement with the chairman over the direction of the club," explained Edwards, who holds an AFC pro coaching licence.
"When I joined the club, the clear direction was to blood youngsters from Western Australia.
"I did that, but the senior players didn't like losing their places in the team. They protested to the chairman, and I was made to leave in the end."
For the past four months, Edwards has been busy with political projects for the state government of Perth.
He tried his hand at politics in 2001 and was elected as a city councillor for Cockburn City Council.
He is also working part-time for Astro with their coverage of the MSL.
"I'm enjoying the work I'm doing for Astro. It allows me to come back to this region, get reacquainted with the Malaysian league and meet up with old mates," said Edwards, who resides in Perth with his Singaporean wife, Gracie, and their four children.
"I was reunited with Abbas on Astro the other day and people were saying we were great together on air as well."
The job on television is just a temporary one, though, because Edwards wants to get back into football.
"The current FFA technical director is leaving his post in June, so that's a position I'm looking at," he said.
"I love coaching, but I'm also more of a long-term strategy person. I like implementing the overall structure and helping with league development.
"That's the kind of work I'd love to do in Singapore some day, if the opportunity ever arises."