Stange set to step down as national coach
German's contract ends next month, search is on for new Lions coach
His contract ends on April 15 and The New Paper understands that national coach Bernd Stange will part ways with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).
A source told TNP: "Earlier in the year, Stange informed the FAS of his decision and the FAS is unlikely to persuade him to stay and has already commenced the search for a new national football coach."
An FAS spokesman confirmed that there were talks with Stange over his future, and said: "Like any other organisation, we have in place employment regulations, including contract renewal review processes.
"We have discussed with coach Bernd on his future and we will announce this decision in April.
"Coach Bernd and his technical team are now focused on the national team's preparations for the upcoming World Cup 2018/Asian Cup 2019 qualifying match against Afghanistan (on March 29)."
At the end of 2012, after Radojko Avramovic stepped down, the FAS appointed Sports Recruitment International to help in a worldwide search for potential candidates.
It is believed the FAS could do so again, although there are strong calls from the fraternity for a local coach like Fandi Ahmad or V Sundramoorthy being handed the reins of the national team.
In a recent exclusive interview with TNP, Stange was coy over his future, although there was a sense he had been frustrated at the lack of comprehensive football facilities islandwide and the need to constantly work around the National Service schedules of youngsters.
He said: "I have discussed with FAS at the beginning of 2016. You will get the answer from FAS through an official announcement in April."
The former East Germany, Oman, Iraq and Belarus coach was unveiled as Lions ringmaster on May 15, 2013 and, since then, has led Singapore in 33 A internationals, with a 14-4-15 win-draw-loss record.
This compares favourably with his Serbian predecessor Avramovic (44-31-55 in 130 matches).
However, Avramovic managed to win three Asean titles, while Stange's only Suzuki Cup experience ended in an embarrassing group-stage exit on home soil as defending champions in 2014.
Stange did manage to pull off a few sensational results, which included a 2-1 win over Syria in an Asian Cup qualifier in 2013 and a stunning 0-0 draw with Japan in Saitama in a World Cup/Asian Cup qualifier last year.
He famously wanted the Singapore football system to adopt the pass-and-move game, building from the goalkeeper onwards. So far, the results have been mixed.
Stange admitted he might have underestimated the challenges facing Singapore football.
"I have to be absolutely honest, I expected personally as a national team coach to achieve more in these two-and-a-half years," said Stange.
"A better ranking, more powerful football, more pressing, more speed than our football now. But, unfortunately, I have found a lot of limitations and challenges which are beyond the control of FAS. We are working on these as a team in the FAS together with our partners.
"My win-lose record (14-15) as national coach is balanced. It could have been positive. Our world ranking is about the same.
"When I came, it was 165, now it's 148. It's not a big difference for me and it should be better.
"I'm not very happy with my own performance in the last two-and-a-half years. I thought I could achieve what I have achieved in countries like Belarus, where I achieved results in a very short time compared to Singapore.
"Maybe I should not be so patient, maybe I should be harder. It was not what I expected because lesser and poorer countries than Singapore, like Bosnia, Slovakia, Cyprus and Serbia, which are all around three million in population, are able to provide professional facilities for games and trainings.
"But I want to thank Sport Singapore for looking into enhancing our training facilities for the national teams at the Geylang Lorong 12 field, which is to me now one of the best pitches in Singapore."
I have to be absolutely honest, I expected personally as a national coach to achieve more in these two-and-a-half years... But, unfortunately, I have found a lot of limitations and challenges which are beyond the control of FAS.
— National coach Bernd Stange
Will a local coach replace Stange?
Vincent Subramaniam made way for Denmark's Jan Poulsen in December 2000 and, since then, the Lions have had Serbia's Radojko Avramovic and Bernd Stange of Germany as coach.
Sources have told The New Paper that Stange will not renew his contract when it ends on April 15. Former national coach Seak Poh Leong, who led the Lions in 1987 and 1988, is certain that "it is time for a local coach to take over".
Said the 64-year-old: "It has been more than a decade since we had a local national coach.
"Besides, this current national team are entirely made up of local-born players.
"The obvious candidates are the ones who know them best and who have worked with them and achieved success most recently, namely Fandi and Sundram."
Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy worked with the bulk of the national team as LionsXII coaches and won the 2015 Malaysian FA Cup and 2013 Malaysian Super League, respectively.
However, former Singapore international John Wilkinson does not think there is anyone here who is up to the task, yet.
"There is no local coach who has the necessary tools to be in charge of the national team, yet," said the 36-year-old, who is doing punditry work for FOX Sports, ESPN FC and StarHub.
"It's going to take a group of local coaches to have attachments in elite football countries before a suitable candidate emerges.
"A coach with a large array of tactical knowledge earned in different footballing environments would suit Singapore well.
"I would like to see a big-name coach that would capture some of the public's imagination."
Another former Singapore coach, PN Sivaji, who led the Lions in 1992 and 1993, simply wants the next national coach to be good at what he does.
The 64-year-old, now technical director of Myanmar club Hantharwardy United, said: "Among the local coaches, Sundram and Fandi appear to be the most qualified based on their experience and qualifications.
"But I feel the national team must be led by a competent coach who can deliver results regardless of nationality."
- DAVID LEE