'Safuwan must grab his chance'
"He can play in different positions, he’s a very versatile player, and maybe he will be used tomorrow. "
— Melbourne City coach John van’t Schip (above) on Safuwan Baharudin
So far, so good.
Melbourne City coach John van't Schip has only good things to say about Safuwan Baharudin since the Singaporean footballer joined the A-League club on loan last week.
Safuwan has been assigned the No. 29 jersey and was an unused substitute in City's 2-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers at their AAMI Park home stadium last Sunday.
But, with the team's regular defensive midfielder Erik Paartalu struggling with a calf injury, the 23-year-old could be thrown into the fray for today's powder-keg clash with city rivals Mebourne Victory, who are third in the A-League, three places above City.
Perhaps it is the pressure that comes with a local Derby, but van't Schip is playing his cards close to his chest as he prepares his team for the clash.
When asked if Safuwan could be handed his A-League debut this afternoon, van't Schip said: "Well, he's part of the team again, and every player who's part of the team has a big chance to play.
"Last week, he didn't come in, but we're very satisfied and happy with him. He's made a good impression this week.
"He's a player who we're very happy to have here. He can play in different positions, he's a very versatile player, and maybe he will be used tomorrow."
Dutchman van't Schip added that he's satisfied with all areas of Safuwan's game.
"He has to get used, maybe, to the way of playing in this league. He just has to wait for his chance," he said.
"We're playing with a team that have already (known) each other and Safuwan, like Jack (Clisby, another new signing), started on the bench last week. He (Clisby) got his chance because left back Benny (Garucchio) got injured and he's a perfect replacement because he is also a left back.
"And if a similar (scenario) happens with Safuwan, with a player in his position getting injured or is not achieving the standard we want, then he has to grab his chance and I'm sure he will."
Safuwan revealed that the coach has made sure that he settles in quickly at the club.
"John takes care of the players really well, especially in terms of welfare," said Safuwan. "For example, every now and then, he will try to communicate with me, even if it's just about food or weather.
"I know he just wants to make me feel welcomed. Some coaches don't do that."
It is not surprising that van't Schip has a soft spot for a Singaporean son.
After all, he played alongside one over 30 years ago, when Fandi Ahmad starred in a trial with Ajax Amsterdam in 1982.
When The New Paper mentioned Fandi's name, van't Schip's eyes lit up.
"Wow, that was a long time ago," he said, flashing a wide smile. "Yes, I trained with Fandi at Ajax Amsterdam and, even though he didn't sign for us, he came back to Holland with Groningen and he did fantastic.
"He even scored against Inter Milan in the European Cup, so he's very famous in Groningen.
"I have very good memories of him because he was with us in pre-season, great guy and nice person.
"Send him my regards."
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ