Alam Shah: Lions can spring a surprise at Suzuki Cup
Assistant national team manager says he will push players to their limits
Noh Alam Shah was a fearless striker during his playing days.
The former Singapore international often led the line with passion and aggression, and looked as if he was ready to run through brick walls if the coach told him to do so.
The 37-year-old, who is back in the national fold as assistant team manager, hopes his passion will rub off on the current Lions.
Alam Shah, who hung up his boots in 2015, believes that the team have what it takes to do well at the year-end AFF Suzuki Cup, and intends to push the players to their limits.
The Lions, who will be led by interim national coach Fandi Ahmad, are in Group B with two-time defending champions Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and either Brunei or Timor Leste. Their campaign kicks off on Nov 9.
Alam Shah echoed Fandi's previous assertion that the Lions lack desire, saying: "The current squad is a lot better in terms of technical and tactical abilities (than the Suzuki Cup-winning sides I was a part of in 2004 and 2007).
"The only problem is that they have to realise that when they don the national jersey, they have to play for the country, for their loved ones.
"It's been missing from them for quite a long time and it's my job to make them realise that."
When asked how he would do so, Alam Shah said: "They know that I was a no-nonsense captain on and off the field.
"They know that they will be pushed by me to an extent that they will perform. So the way I see it, my presence, the way I talk, the way I carry myself, can influence the players."
If the players rise to the occasion, Alam Shah believes that they can spring a surprise at the Suzuki Cup, just like his 2004 Lions side that won the Asean crown against all odds.
He sees a striking similarity between the current side and the team coached by Raddy Avramovic 14 years ago - the dismal run in the lead-up to the tournament.
The current Lions side went two years without winning a competitive game under V. Sundram Moorthy, who stepped down last month.
Alluding to their unexpected victory in 2004, Alam Shah said: "Going into this tournament, we will try our best to fight for the country because I sincerely believe if the players give their best, it's achievable.
"In 2004, when people wrote us off, we went on to win the cup. It's only a matter of putting the players in the right frame of mind."
The Lions went on to retain the title in 2007, with Alam Shah emerging as top scorer with 10 goals to become the tournament's all-time leading scorer with 17 goals.
He hopes to see the Lions adopt an attacking style that has been sorely missing from the national team in recent years.
Alam Shah believes that the influence of attack-minded mentors like Fandi and himself will add more flair to their attack.
He said: "My advice (to the strikers) is just go and express yourself.
"If we show that we want to play attack-minded football, it will show in the players on the field; they will be able to express themselves a lot more than in the previous years."
He also recognised the importance of the team having a sense of camaraderie, stating that having closely-knit team would translate to better performances on the pitch, recalling how that was a key aspect in the Lions' 2004 victory.
Alam Shah acknowledged that they do not have the luxury of time, but remained positive, saying: "We have nothing to lose.
"We cannot do much with the players' capabilities, we cannot change much in five months.
"What we can do is to make them understand that come Suzuki Cup, we are all ready to play as a unit for the flag on our chest."