‘DON’T MAKE SAME MISTAKE’
Felda United coach Sathianathan seeks consistency after bounceback season
B. SATHIANATHAN issued a warning to Felda United not to repeat the mistakes of last season if the club intend to become an established force in Malaysian football.
The former national coach still cannot understand why Felda changed half of the team that finished runners-up to Johor Darul Ta’zim in the Super League last year and qualified for the AFC Cup.
The effect was that Felda made a poor start to the 2017 season, losing three of their first four Super League matches, and it was only when Sathianathan was hired to replace Azmi Mohamed as coach in February did the club finally turn their season around.
Felda have moved up to third in the league and play defending champions Kedah in the first leg of the Malaysia Cup semi-finals in Jengka tomorrow.
Sathianathan said Kedah should be viewed as a model on how to sustain a team capable of challenging for honours every year.
“The Kedah team have hardly changed in the last three, four years with the exception of one or two foreign players,” said Sathianathan during a Felda training session in Bangi yesterday.
“They have been together for a long time and that is an advantage. We, on the other hand, have made wholesale changes.
“From finishing second in the Super League to suddenly dropping 11, 12 players. I don’t know who made that decision.
“That is not healthy if you want to compete strongly. A team who releases 11, 12 players don’t have the ambition to become strong. When you finish runners-up, you should maintain the team.
“But after losing so many players, you saw what happened to Felda at the start of this season. So in the second round after we brought in quality players, you saw the difference.
“In our last 10 games, we won eight and drew one (in the league). Kedah have this type of consistency and that is why they are always challenging for trophies.”
Felda’s preparation for tomorrow’s match at the Tun Abdul Razak Stadium has been hampered by the loss of midfielder Stuart Wark to a knee injury.
However, Sathianathan said Felda still have a good chance of making the final provided they do not repeat the mistakes of the quarter-finals, when they lost to Perak State Economic Development Corporation 3-1 at home in the first leg before winning the return 4-1 in Shah Alam.
“We need to win the first leg to have a chance of getting to the final,” said Sathianathan, who previously won the Malaysia Cup with Kelantan in 2010 and finished runners-up with Armed Forces in 2012.
“We can’t afford to lose 3-1 like what happened in the quarterfinals because against Kedah we won’t be able to overcome the deficit in the second leg. That is a guarantee.”
Thiago Augusto Fernandes (left) scored five goals in the Malaysia Cup last year as he helped Kedah win the title while on loan from Felda United.