Step up, senior Lions
Ex-international Kadir Yahaya says the experienced players must show the way
Unlike most in the football fraternity, Kadir Yahaya believes V Sundramoorthy and his Lions have enough in their arsenal to do well at the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup that kicks off tomorrow.
Several have predicted that the Lions will not survive a Group A that includes defending champions Thailand, co-hosts the Philippines and Indonesia, but the former Singapore international insisted that there is enough ability in the Singapore ranks.
However, the senior players must step up.
Kadir told The New Paper: "If they fail, the coach will be answerable, along with the senior players.
"There is more than enough experience in the squad to carry the team, but they must buck up."
Former Singapore international Kadir Yahaya.
The former LionsXII assistant coach watched Singapore beat Cambodia 1-0 last Sunday and he was disappointed with the placid football on display at the Bishan Stadium, especially since there were few who took responsibility for the performance of the team.
He said: "The players didn't rise to the occasion. What they need to do is call the whole team into a room, lock that door and talk.
RETURN IN CASKETS
"I believe that this will be the last tournament for many of the older players like Mustafic Fahrudin, Baihakki Khaizan, Daniel Bennett, Juma'at Jantan, Shahril Ishak and maybe even Shahdan Sulaiman.
"If they don't do something here, they will be forgotten.
"They may have gone to Manila carrying their luggage, but they'll be coming back in caskets if they don't at least make it to the semi-finals.
"But if they do something, they will become heroes," said Kadir, who pointed out that many of these players did not get much, if any, playing time under former national coach Bernd Stange.
He reserved words for Lions' skipper Shahril, whom he believes has failed to take any sort of responsibility despite still being the de facto captain of the team.
He said of Shahril, who did not feature in the Lions' last three friendlies, and is not expected to play much in Manila: "I am very disappointed with Shahril.
"How can he contribute when he just sits on the bench?
"He's a captain, but he has not even made an appearance against Cambodia, Syria or Hong Kong.
ONLY REALISTIC CUP
"Bernd did not play him much and now Sundram is not playing him much either and, if he hasn't already asked himself some serious questions, he has to.
"He may not have the legs anymore, but I still believe he has the brains.
"He needs to sit with Sundram and (assistant coach) Fandi Ahmad, and either tell them that he can contribute or if his time is up, he needs to make way for younger players."
Kadir also reminded the national team that the Suzuki Cup remains the only tournament they are capable of winning.
Indeed, it was the first international tournament that Singapore won, when they clinched the 1998 title, back when it was known as the Tiger Cup.
Singapore have won the tournament four times, a feat matched only by Asean giants Thailand.
Said Kadir: "We cannot afford to fail, we are four-time champions.
"Based on facts, this is really the only competition we actually have a chance at.
"We struggle at the Asian Cup qualifiers, World Cup qualifiers, even the Olympic qualifiers.
"The senior players must get together and remind the team that we can actually win this tournament, and show it on the training ground and out on the pitch.
"Because if they don't, I fear nobody will remember these players."