Leonard Thomas: Stick with Sundram, FAS
The national coach could only do so much with such a limited squad
It has been a painful journey, and after the Lions' failed attempt to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup, V. Sundram Moorthy needs to do the right thing now.
The coach of the national football team must dismantle the squad, axe a host of his regulars for youngsters and begin the task of rebuilding the side.
After giving him a contract till 2019, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) should stick with their man even after a dismal run of 13 'A' internationals without a win.
There will be much discussion over the next few days over whether Sundram is the right man for the job.
I believe there is no local coach who could have done better with the players available, and the FAS should now help the 52-year-old plan for the AFF Suzuki Cup, which will kick off in November next year.
Let's not kid ourselves, many of Singapore's senior footballers today are simply not good enough to produce results on the international stage.
Their first touch is abysmal and their ability to even make a simple pass is not up to the mark.
Shockingly, fitness is poor.
This is the price to pay after the previous FAS regime failed to emphasise the importance of youth development and rejuvenation.
Any coach will struggle to post positive results when so many players are not even armed with the basics.
These players are lazy and don't take time outside of training to work on their craft.
I watched the Lions take on Taiwan in an Asian Cup qualifier at the Jalan Besar Stadium in June, and I came away from the match wondering how our national team has not been on the end of some embarrassing scorelines over the last couple of years.
The Taiwanese players were comfortable on the ball, they found each other easily with their passing game, never panicked after going a goal down and were clearly better than their opponents in a 2-1 comeback win.
Even after going in front after just six minutes, our players were insipid, lacklustre and unimaginative.
Their close control was poor and the lack of pace in the team and abject fitness startling.
Sundram chose a group generally regarded as the best players in the country with a number of experienced heads, but shorn of a worthy creative spark and a quality striker, he adopted a defensive approach.
With this group, it was the only strategy that would give him a sniff of pulling off victories and his tactics generally kept contests close, although the players' lack of fitness saw the team concede many goals in the latter stages of a clutch of matches.
The game plan nearly worked in a stirring match against regional powerhouses and eventual champions Thailand in last year's AFF Suzuki Cup, when the Lions were unlucky to concede an 89th-minute goal and lose the match 1-0 - a result that almost certainly cost them a place in the semi-finals.
That was the best I've witnessed from Sundram's Lions, but when you have many players with limited ability who have little ambition to work and improve themselves, then such performances will quickly dry up.
It is time the likes of Madhu Mohana, Faritz Hameed, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Zulfahmi Arifin, Izzdin Shafiq, Yasir Hanapi and Shakir Hamzah are dropped because they cannot cut it at international level.
Hami Syahin, Ikhsan Fandi, Safirul Sulaiman, Emmeric Ong, Shawal Anuar, M. Anumanthan and Shannon Stephen were all in Sundram's last squad and these youngsters should feature more intensely.
Sundram should get together with the FAS technical team led by Belgian Michel Sablon and decide who else to promote from the Under-23 squad.
Perhaps the FAS can also look to boost the national squad with at least two or three players from the Foreign Talent Scheme.
From now, Hariss Harun must always be Singapore's midfield pivot.
From now, Safuwan Baharudin must return to his natural role as a libero.
He may score goals in club football across the Causeway but he is no striker, as proven on the international stage.
The FAS youth development plan, worked on by Sablon and his team, is a long-term project.
Now, Sundram should be charged with the task of assembling a team worthy of the Singapore jersey for the next five years, with the semi-finals of next year's AFF Suzuki Cup his immediate target.