In an exclusive interview with Goal, Johor Darul Takzim Head Coach Fandi Ahmad appeared to be confident and was more worried about the pitch conditions among other things
Goal managed to get hold of Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) coach, Fandi Ahmad, to get his views on the upcoming FA Cup final against Kelantan on Saturday. In the exclusive interview, the ex-Singapore international revealed that he is not at all pressured going into the clash with Kelantan at the National Stadium.
Goal: From personal standpoint, you have a multitude of trophies in the Malaysian football scene as a player and this is the first time you’re going into a final as a coach of Johor Darul Takzim. Are you feeling a lot of pressure?
Fandi: Personally, no. I’m used to it. In any case, that’s not my main concern at the moment. Right now, I’m more worried about the players that we might miss for this match. That’s our biggest pressure and worry right now.
G: Besides Aidil Zafuan’s suspension, who else is in doubt for JDT in the final?
F: Safee (Sali), Safiq (Rahim) and Andrezinho. They are on the road to recovery but we don’t know whether they are fit enough for the final. We will do late checks and fitness tests on them before the final and see how it goes from there.
G: For most of your players, the final will be a new experience for them. However, you have in your side players and coaches who have experienced this before. Will you be looking at the likes of Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Safiq or Khairul Azman for help to lead the inexperienced ones?
F: Definitely. For sure we are looking at those who have experience in playing in the final and we will have a chat with them, to see what kind of input they can give the others based on their experience. It’s all about team work, pride and confidence. Players like Mat-Yo [Norshahrul] and Roya [Nurul Azwan] can give motivational talks to the players to lift their spirit. From the coaches’ perspective, we are always ready to share our knowledge with the players and we intend to do so, especially for the final.
G: Coming into this final, JDT are actually running on the back of poor form. No wins in the last three matches that included the draw with Felda United, which could send the MSL league title across the causeway. Is that a worry?
F: The form isn’t a big worry. Like I said earlier, we are still more concerned with the availability of our players, either through injuries or suspension. But I’m sure we will manage and we will do well. We come with a promise to the fans that we’ll give 200 per cent in this game to try and bring the cup to Johor.
G: Dickson Nwakaeme has three goals in the last four matches and Badri Radzi has been banging in the goals from distance too. Who do you think is the man to watch in Kelantan?
F: They are all very dangerous players if you don’t mark or pressure them. Any player can be very dangerous if you give them space. I have a lot of respect for the Kelantan coach and team. For our part, we have to ensure that we organise our defence well and put in a tackle when required. If we do our job well, we don’t have to worry.
G: Given that you mentioned the need to deny them space, would there be a special man-marking job on Badri, given he’s the playmaker of the Kelantan side?
F: That we haven’t discussed yet because we haven’t finalised the lineup for the final. We will only be heading up to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow (Friday) and we will try to organise during our training session at the National Stadium.
G: In recent matches, Kelantan seemed to have developed a tendency to concede goals from high balls being swung in from wide positions. Will crosses into the penalty box, be one of the things that you will work on and try to take advantage of, on Saturday?
F: [Laughs] That’s a very good point. Hopefully we can but my team don’t normally put in too many crosses, so that might not work. [More laughs]
G: We have known about the poor condition of the pitch at Bukit Jalil. Will that play a part in your preparations for the final as well?
F: That is actually one of our worries. It is actually quite dangerous for player to play on that kind of pitch, especially for the ankles and knees. We found out that many players get injured there due to it being too soft and also due the sand that’s all over the pitch. When we are there tomorrow, we will see the condition for ourselves and will be able to plan better.