Rajan appointed Singapore's men's hockey coach
Former Malaysian international will lead men's team at 2017 SEA Games in KL
He remembered his days as a Malaysian international in the 1970s, a time when hockey standards were comparable on both sides of the Causeway.
K Rajan knows that it would take a lot for today's Singapore national team to catch up with his countrymen, who are ranked 13th in the world.
The Republic's men are world No. 38, and Rajan aims to turn the team - ranked No. 10 on the continent - into the top side among the second-tier of Asian hockey nations.
That is the personal target of the 59-year-old, who will officially assume the role of national men's coach on Aug 1.
Rajan (above) put pen to paper on a two-year contract at the Singapore Hockey Federation's (SHF) Sengkang headquarters yesterday, replacing South African Solomon Casoojee.
Casoojee led the Republic to an emotional silver medal at last year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games held here, and left after the World League Round 1 tourney earlier this year.
Rajan steered the Malaysian Under-21 side to a 12th-placed finish among 20 teams at the 2009 Junior World Cup, after leading Thailand to the SEA Games bronze medal two years earlier.
He also led Tenaga Nasional to six Malaysian titles in his 12 years there.
"I've seen the Singapore team play at the World League, and I know what I'm getting into, and I know what I can contribute," Rajan told The New Paper.
"You can't be world class overnight, but you can have class.
"My personal target, what I would deem as personal success, is to see Singapore beat all the countries that are not in the top six in Asia - I want Singapore to be the best team in the second tier of Asian hockey."
India, Pakistan, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan and China are currently the top six teams, in that order.
Rajan believes that Singapore can be ahead of Oman, Bahrain and Sri Lanka, the only teams ranked in front of them right now.
The SHF has set targets for Rajan, starting with retaining the silver medal at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games next year, and ending with a lofty top-eight finish at the Asian Games in Indonesia a year later, just before his contract comes to an end.
"These are realistic targets for the time being," said Rajan.
"If I can hit these targets, I'd consider (my term) partly successful. The team's performance must also be of a high standard - that's the second part.
"To get to the level of Malaysia is very hard, not because there is a lack of facilities or players. In Singapore, there is a focus on academics, getting good jobs and good careers and, because of that, players retire a lot earlier than they do in Malaysia."
SHF president Mathavan Devadas revealed that the search for a new coach started some time back.
"Among all the candidates we interviewed over the eight-month search, he (Rajan) really stands out, both in terms of his high performance and development pedigree," said Mathavan.
"We thought that with him being from Malaysia, he would be more in tune with the culture here."
"My loyalty is to the team that I train," added Rajan, who does not believe his nationality will be a problem, even when he leads the team into battle in the Malaysian capital at the SEA Games next year.
"For me, the door to the national team must never be closed, but I will draw up a programme only after I know for sure how many players we can get consistently for training (sessions).
"I need a full attendance before I can draw up a training programme."