First clash among friends Sundram and Bala
Long-time friends Sundram and Bala to clash as coaches for the first time
TAMPINES ROVERS v HOUGANG UNITED
(Feb 26, 7.30pm, Jurong West Stadium)
They've known each other for over 30 years.
Tonight at the Jurong West Stadium, V Sundramoorthy and K Balagumaran will go head to head for the first time as coaches of S.League teams.
Sundram will be in the technical area for star-studded Tampines Rovers - tipped by many as favourites for this season's S.League crown - while Bala will stand just metres away, in front of Hougang United's bench.
Three years ago, the duo were a coaching tandem, with Bala assisting Sundram in the LionsXII's victorious Malaysian Super League (MSL) campaign in 2013, and then at Malaysian side Negeri Sembilan a year later.
They have come a long way since first playing alongside each other in the youth team of Tampines Rovers as teenagers.
Said Bala Wednesday: "I worked with (Sundram), so I know just what a shrewd tactician he is.
"He watches videos of the opponents, studies them carefully, then he comes up with a system.
"He will definitely have a plan for us on Friday."
Sundram paid tribute to Bala, saying: "We work very well together, especially so in the MSL-winning year.
"During the season, he continually had good input which really helped the team.
"Obviously, he has got his own dreams, too, and now is his time to lead an S.League team."
Before taking over at Hougang towards the end of last season, Bala's only stint as an S.League head coach was with Gombak United in 2012.
He guided the Bulls to a ninth-place finish out of 13 teams, but the club sat out of the S.League the following season due to financial issues.
The 51-year-old has enjoyed a great start to the new season, as Hougang posted a shock 1-0 win over title hopefuls Home United last week.
Sundram, 50, watched the game from the stands and believes Bala's new-look Hougang outfit would be a "real test" for his charges.
Tampines are full of confidence themselves, after a 4-0 spanking of Bangladesh outfit Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi in the AFC Cup on Tuesday.
Bala wasn't entirely impressed by the rout, though.
"To be honest, looking at the opposition, they didn't give Tampines a hard game," he said.
"They didn't really go in hard for the tackles and their attackers were all walking instead of chasing back.
"We will give them a harder fight, and maybe we can do to them what we did to Home United."
But Sundram says his side have enough in them to see off Hougang.
He said: "Like I've said before, it's about us, it's not about the opponents.
"If we turn up and play our usual stuff, we can achieve the result we are after."
We work very well together, especially so in the MSL-winning year... now is his time to lead an S.League team.
— Tampines Rovers coach V Sundramoorthy on K Balagumaran, the LionsXII assistant coach in 2013
I worked with Sundram, so I know just what a shrewd tactician he is. He watches videos of the opponents... then comes up with a system.
— Hougang United coach K Balagumaran, on V Sundramoorthy, the LionsXII head coach in 2013.