S.League Coach of the Year Naoki Naruo has revealed his intentions of making a return to the league in the near future after stepping down as Albirex Niigata's in-charge on Thursday.
Naruo led the White Swans to their maiden S.League title in the recently concluded season. Albirex also became the first-ever football club in Singapore to win a quadruple by winning the League Cup, Community Shield and the Singapore Cup as well.
In his first stint as Albirex coach in 2009, Naruo's side finished an uninspiring seventh. In the 2016 season though, Albirex looked solid scoring 50 goals and conceding lesser than anyone else in the league - 24 and made light work of all the local teams, including league giants Tampines Rovers.
Naruo revealed that his personal commitments forced him to leave Singapore after just one successful season. He added that when he was approached for the second stint, he decided not to settle for anything other than the league title.
"I'm happy to see the club win and grow as a team, and maybe one day, when my children [two daughters, nine and seven, and a five-year-old son] grow up, I will come back to coach in the S.League again," Naruo was quoted as saying by The New Paper.
"When I was approached in December last year to be the head coach again, it was apparent to me that the target was to win the league title, which has been elusive to the club.
"I told myself that I cannot afford to fail again at this second bite at the cherry. We learnt through our failures and corrected our mistakes to make our march towards success.
"The result was an astounding clean sweep of four titles. The club took 13 years to get to where they want to be, that is, at the top."
Apart from the coach, Albirex will replace around 20 players from the existing squad for the new season, including their top-scorer and Player of the Season winner Atsushi Kawata. Club chairman Daisuke Korenaga will head to Japan soon to scout for the replacements, according to the report.
Albirex, who were also keen on inclusion of local talent in their squad, reportedly have plans to set up "Albirex Sports Development Fund", an initiative which helps two Singapore footballers train with their parent side - J.League's Albirex Niigata - every year.
"Singapore have accepted us, so we have to give back to Singapore football. We have a responsibility to the Singapore football scene to have a positive effect," Korenanga said.