Contract about to expire, Lions coach Sundramoorthy's fate hangs in balance

Suzuki Cup debacle raises doubts over Sundram's efficiency to continue leading the Singapore football team.

V Sundramoorthy
Will V Sundramoorthy (R) continue working with the Lions? Reuters

With national coach V Sundramoorthy's one-year-contract nearing its end, former Singapore international Aleksandar Duric and Hougang United coach Philippe Aw have stressed that it would be ideal to give the 51-year-old tactician more time with the Lions.

Sundram, who took over as coach in May last year, will lead the team against Bahrain in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers on 28 March but the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) have not yet decided on who will lead the Lions after the opening encounter. Notably, the Lions have been drawn alongside Turkmenistan and Chinese Taipei in Group E.

After having a tough time with the team in his first few months, Sundram suffered a big blow when the Lions crashed out of last year's AFF Suzuki Cup without being able to win a match in the group stages of the biennial tournament, which also became their worst performance in the tournament's history. The former Tampines Rovers coach faced flak for his defensive approach but there were mixed opinions about the tactics he employed.

Sundram himself has reportedly conceded that the upcoming campaign for the national team will be tough as it will up against higher-ranked teams. However, sources close to Fas have revealed that the board, which has not posted advertisements for the position nor met potential candidates, might as well consider extending the coach's contract to cover the Asian Cup qualifiers, according to The Straits Times.

While Duric, who had worked with Sundram at Tampines, said that the Suzuki Cup debacle should only be attributed to limited pre-tournament time that was available for the coach and nothing else, Aw said the tactician definitely deserved another shot.

"I have worked with Sundram [at Tampines Rovers] and I don't think there is a better candidate. He knows the local scene well enough and wouldn't need to waste time adapting and learning about the local players. The FAS has to act now, with the first match coming next month," Duric said, as quoted by the news daily.

"[Ex-Lions coach] Bernd Stange had more than a year to prepare for the AFF Cup and he also lost in the group stage. Sundram had only six months. With the confidence and peace of mind from signing a new contract, I strongly believe he can achieve something with the national team."

"Sundram deserves another shot. Hiring a top-class coach might not make everything well and good right away. He will also need time to adapt. Why not give Sundram that time?," Aw opined.

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