New goalkeeping coach Burridge: Izwan's good enough for Europe
New LionsXII goalkeeping coach Burridge vows to turn Izwan into top custodian
Great save, Izzy! Fantastic commitment, Kyle!
It was a curious Cumbrian accent that caught the attention as the LionsXII goalkeepers trained and made flying saves at the Geylang Lorong 12 field on Wednesday in preparation for tomorrow's Malaysia Cup match against Johor Darul Ta'zim II.
Former Manchester City goalkeeper John Burridge definitely made his presence felt on his first day of work as LionsXII goalkeeping coach as he bellowed instructions and encouragement with gusto.
Izzy is the nickname for LionsXII No. 1 Izwan Mahbud, while Kyle refers to reserve goalie Khairulhin Khalid.
And, in the mind of Budgie, as Burridge is popularly known, there is no doubt that he can help launch Izwan into Europe.
The 63-year-old Englishman told The New Paper: "Izzy is a top goalkeeper. He reminds me of myself, to be honest, and I think he definitely has what it takes to play in Europe, like in Spain for example, top division, no problem.
"All he needs to do is to bulk up. Give me six, seven months with him, and I'll show you a top goalkeeper.
"I've already put the first Omani footballer in the Premier League when Ali Al-Habsi joined Bolton Wanderers in 2006.
"I've helped to put Hassan Sunny in the Thai Premier League, and Izwan's next. This is what I came to Singapore to do.
"I have been here since January 2014. I know the players, there's no problems at all settling in.
"My current contract ends at the end of the year and I'll be very happy to carry on here."
COMING CLOSE: New LionsXII goalkeeper coach John Burridge (left) says Izwan Mahbud reminds him of himself. TNP PHOTO: CHOO CHWEE HUA
Singapore national team coach Bernd Stange, who was also at training, confirmed with The New Paper that Burridge has replaced the 62-year-old Lee Bee Seng as LionsXII and national goalkeeping coach.
Lee, who was a long-serving national goalkeeping coach and played the same role for the LionsXII since they were formed in 2012, will now join the Courts Young Lions.
Revealing that the decision was made last week, the 67-year-old German said: "John has an amazing track record of developing goalkeepers into international standards and he brings plenty of experience he has gained from playing in the European league.
"Bee Seng has good contacts and knowledge of local football to groom the next generation of goalkeepers for the Under-21s and Under-23s. It's an advantage that John doesn't have.
"Bee Seng has been a very committed coach who has done very well to produce Izwan and Hassan. It is because of him we haven't had a goalkeeping problem with the national team and we thank him for all that he has done.
"But now, I feel there is a gap between Izwan and Hassan and the younger goalkeepers, and it's important to have Bee Seng's knowledge to groom more local goalkeepers.
"Both goalkeeping coaches will continue to report to me and they have taken this decision very professionally."
Izwan was full of gratitude towards Lee for grooming him into what he is today.
The 25-year-old was the talk of the town in June after he kept a clean sheet with 18 saves for Singapore in the 0-0 draw against Japan in a World Cup Asian qualifier.
"Bee Seng has contributed a lot to Singapore football and has had a big impact on my career throughout," said Izwan.
"I first trained with him when I was 16, along with other goalkeeper coaches like Kumar Krishnan and Rameshpal Singh.
"Bee Seng gave me a lot of chances. He and Raddy (Avramovic, former national coach) trusted me for the crucial World Cup qualifiers against Malaysia in 2011, and I will always remember that.
"He has always given me good advice and corrected my mistakes and I thank him for all that he has done for me, and I know we will still be in touch."
Izwan also expressed optimism that the appointment of Burridge can help "take me to the next level".
He added: "Budgie has so much experience playing for so many years in the United Kingdom.
"I definitely also want to learn all that I can from him so that I can move up to the next level in my career and become a better goalkeeper.
"Budgie brings in a different approach to his training, so my fellow goalkeepers and I have to adapt fast.
"We know there is no time to lose, it's work, work, and work now with so many crucial games ahead for club and country."