Sundram eyes S.League title with Tampines Rovers
He described his return to Singapore and the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League in typical deadpan style.
Ahead of his first season in charge of five-time champions Tampines Rovers, after a year with Negeri Sembilan in the Malaysian Premier League, V Sundramoorthy is happy to be home.
"I'm back to being busy," The Dazzler told The New Paper in an interview yesterday. "It feels good to be home and back in the S.League. It's been... maybe four years?"
Indeed, 2010 was the last time Sundram - regarded as one of the most skilful local footballers - sat in the dugout during an S.League game.
That time, he was with the Courts Young Lions, with whom he spent three seasons. Before that, the 49-year-old helmed Jurong FC from 1999 to 2003.
More recently, he led the LionsXII from 2012-13, winning the Malaysian Super League title in his second season, before leaving for Negeri.
"There were other offers from Super League clubs after I left Negeri Sembilan, but things didn't work out," said Sundram.
"In the end, Tampines came knocking, and I thought, 'Why not come back to the S.League?'. It's our (national) league after all."
Sundram's move to Negeri, after his title-winning season with the LionsXII, surprised many, especially since the club were playing in Malaysia's second tier at the time.
He was given the target of gaining promotion in his first season in charge, but the club finished fifth, three places off the mark.
"Negeri was a project which needed time to be successful," explained Sundram when asked about his stint across the Causeway.
"But the club wanted immediate success. It takes time to develop a good understanding with new players."
"At the LionsXII, I worked with players I knew for a long time."
Having led either dark horses or developmental teams in the past, it seems that this is the first time Sundram is in charge of bonafide title contenders in Tampines.
The Dazzler agreed.
"That's true. At Jurong, we were never the favourites, but somehow we upset the odds," he said with a grin, referring to his two Singapore Cup final appearances with the club.
"After taking underdog teams in the past, it's nice to coach a team who have the favourites' tag finally."
At Tampines, under ambitious chairman Teo Hock Seng, Sundram will be expected to deliver the league title in his first year.
After winning the championship three years on the trot (2011-13), the Stags finished a disappointing third last season, behind champions Warriors FC and Brunei's DPMM FC.
To steer the club back to winning ways, Sundram has added no less than 13 new players to his 20-man roster, including four new foreign imports.
The club have yet to finalise their fifth foreign signing.
Retaining club captain Mustafic Fahrudin and Singapore defender Shaiful Esah, Tampines have signed wingers Ridhuan Muhammad and Firdaus Idros from Geylang and Tanjong Pagar respectively.
Their biggest signing, of course, is last season's S.League Player of the Year - goalkeeper Hassan Sunny from the Warriors, although the 30-year-old could leave for Thai club Army United FC next month.
All five foreign imports from last season have been released, with Sundram signing four new players - all previously with Malaysian clubs.
"We have invested in the team and we're looking to win the S.League," said the coach.
"Playing under (Teo) is a big challenge, because his expectations are very high. He has so much passion for the game, it's good to work for someone like that.
"Winning the league won't be easy. I followed the S.League last season even when I was in Malaysia, and the usual suspects like Warriors, Home and Brunei are all strong teams.
"We've got a good set of players. The important thing now is get them to gel and work as a unit."
Name: V Sundramoorthy
Coaching career: Jurong FC (player-coach; 1999-2003), National Football Academy (Under-17, Under-18; 2004-2006), Young Lions (2007-2008), NFA Under-21 (2009), Young Lions (2010), National team striker coach (2011), LionsXII (2012-2013), Negeri Sembilan (2014)
Coaching honours: Singapore Cup runners-up (1999, 2002 as player-coach) Malaysian Super League champions (2013)Malaysian Super League runners-up (2012)