Leonard Thomas:FAS should treat national coach's job with more respect
Silence of football leadership over Sundram's exit and future coach is puzzling
In his pomp, so many paid just to watch him play and the irony is that, under his tutelage, the national team hardly ever thrilled us.
So V Sundram Moorthy is no more coach of the Lions, after a barren two years where the side struggled to win, falling at the group stage of the 2016 Suzuki Cup and finishing bottom of the recently concluded Asian Cup qualifiers.
What seems to be lost in all the chatter about Sundram is that the flow of ready talent for the Singapore national team at the moment is at its lowest ebb in generations.
The standard of football everywhere else has gone up, in Singapore it has been in reverse for years and it is a big reason the Lions were never going to advance from a group with Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines in the Suzuki Cup two years ago.
With only midfielder Hariss Harun, goalkeeper Hassan Sunny and at one time centre-back Safuwan Baharudin of international calibre, Sundram's Lions were always going to struggle.
They were never going to qualify for the Asian Cup and deservedly finished bottom of their group because, yes, even Taiwan were better.
I was at the Jalan Besar Stadium when the Lions took on the East Asian outfit last June and the visitors were technically a step ahead, far fitter, unafraid to receive a ball and passing and moving with cunning.
I was surprised the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) leadership, led by president Lim Kia Tong and supported by deputy president Bernard Tan and the likes of vice-president Edwin Tong, felt a press release was sufficient to announce news affecting the biggest individual job in local sport.
After winning last year's elections, the new leadership promised transparency and a willingness to engage and explain decisions to Singaporeans, and anyone of Lim, Tan and Tong could have easily helmed a press conference to address questions over Sundram's exit.
Almost a year to the day Lim's team took the helm, their refusal to entertain any question was a huge disappointment and, worryingly, seems to be a move right out of the playbook of previous regimes.
There are many questions surrounding Sundram's sudden exit, not least the one about his successor.
No one would have expected a name to be thrown up but, now, no one even knows the kind of coach the FAS is looking for, what kind of support he will receive and the results expected of the national team when the nation is struggling for talent.
One name that has come up is former ringmaster Radojko Avramovic, who turned the Lions into a respected outfit in Asia as he led them to three Asean titles.
The Serb is familiar with the climate but, after 10 years in charge of the Lions, Avramovic might be loathe to return for a second stint, especially with so many ordinary footballers around.
Inevitably, Fandi Ahmad is linked with the job, although with a brief to lead the national Under-23s in a gold-medal quest at the 2019 South-east Asia Games, it would be tricky to make a coaching switch now, or ask him to juggle two portfolios of such weight.
Kadir Yahaya's reputation as a gifted coach always makes him a favourite in a number of quarters, he would be my choice, but the former national defender has consistently rejected overtures from the FAS and, after the departure of his good friend Sundram, I would be surprised if he has a different answer today.
If Kadir does say no, I hope the FAS finds the money and turns to a fresh foreign expert as it might just be the fillip required for local football.
He must be a stickler for fitness and discipline, his mantra has to be positive football, but he will have to patient and plot for success maybe at the 2020 Suzuki Cup.
Patience is a must because the country must wait for FAS technical director Michel Sablon and his team's work on the youth development system here to bear fruit.
We have to hope the Singapore Premier League will produce talent with the new Under-23 rule for clubs.
There is no quick fix no matter who becomes coach, the best the country can hope for is a semi-final spot in the year-end Suzuki Cup.
After years of limited focus on youth development, talented footballers have been in short supply here and we will never know how Sundram would have performed with a better team.
I hope the FAS leadership will tell Singapore fans they will never allow the national coach to be in the same situation again.
Preferably, not via a press release.