The battle for the 2017's Best Coach in the National Football Awards (ABK) is down to the last three candidates after Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) revealed the remaining contenders.
Two of the coaches nominated ply their trade in the Premier League in 2017 while only one was in the Super League. The winner from B. Sathinathan (Felda United), Irfran Bakti (Terengganu) and Abu Bakar Fadzim (PKNP FC) will be known when the awards ceremony take place this Friday.
Sathianathan took over from Azmi Mohamed in February as Felda went on a slide from the start of the season and managed to steady the ship without much fuss. From as low as 11th spot at one time, Felda ended up finishing in third place following a remarkable second half of the season.
A few change of personnel with the inclusion of Dino Djulbic, Ifedayo Olusegun and Thiago Augusto in the mid-season transfer window, Sathianathan also managed to propel to the club to a semi-final appearance in the Malaysia Cup.
As for Irfan, he guided Terengganu back into the 2018 Super League by finishing runners-up in the Premier League. There was a tremendous consistency in the manner in which Irfan led the team as they never dropped out of the top three spots in the table since the fourth round of league matches.
The surprise package from the trio of nominees is none other than Abu Bakar, whose unfancied PKNP side became the neutral's favourite. They only narrowly missed out on automatic promotion to the Super League, though they were eventually asked to replace Felda United for next season's campaign.
The tiny club side from Ipoh also reached the quarterfinal stage of both the FA Cup and Malaysia Cup, a feat unmatched by anyone from the same division as them. PKNP were able to hang on in the upper reaches of the Premier League table despite having a import player less than their counterparts speak volumes of the work that Abu Bakar had put in.