The outgoing Warriors coach hopes his side can take heed of recent lessons against Tampines Rovers while counterpart Tay Peng Kee reveals that he's not distracted by the title race
|By Kenneth Tan
The stage is set for the 16th edition of the RHB Singapore Cup final as SAFFC face off against Tampines Rovers, with two very different coaches in the opposite dugouts.
Richard Bok will be bringing the curtain down on his trophy-laden seven-year reign as SAFFC coach, while Tay Peng Kee's Stags career is still in its infancy.
For Bok, the significance of this trophy cannot be any bigger - a chance to end the Warriors' two-year trophy drought, a chance to prove that his early trophy-winning exploits were no fluke and a chance to end his coaching reign with a win.
SAFFC has picked up the trophy four times in their history - 1997, 1999, 2007 and 2008.
Bok was at the helm for the latter two triumphs, as he recalled one of the most memorable moments of his reign - a 4-3 victory over the same opponents in 2007, after having to come back three times.
"Of course I still remember that match!" he exclaimed as he spoke to Goal.com Singapore.
"At that time, my squad had John Wilkinson, Faizal Hamid, Kenji Arai, Noor Ali, Masrezwan Masturi, Therdsak Chaiman and of course, [current Tampines players] Aleksandar Duric and Jamil Ali.
"Of course, a lot of things happened [in that match] and it was one of the most memorable cup finals for me."
One of those things that made the headlines next day was the infamous Noh Alam Shah vs Daniel Bennett incident, which left many with a bad taste on the mouth.
Fast forward five years later, and the duo are set to face off again in their biggest game of the season.
The 28-year-old Alam Shah is set to start on the bench though, alongside other talents like Jamil Ali and Ahmed Fahmie, a point that Bok was keen to point out.
”They [Tampines] have got the quality, especially with their depth on the bench; they can call upon established players to change the game," Bok emphasized.
"We have to make sure we defend all the way against them, be it against direct football or football on the ground."
Despite the Hari Raya holiday on Friday, there was no place for festive spirits for the Warriors with regular training being scheduled on that day.
"I know it's a holiday, but the players do understand that they have an important game coming up, so they will be alert," he said.
With both sides being traditional rivals and having already faced off nine days ago, Bok revealed that the 2-3 loss did not result in him making any big difference for his preparations for this game.
"Both teams know each other inside out. There are no secrets. It's just that preparation will be more detailed, and we're working on the defensive areas," he explained.
"The most important thing for the players is to go out there and enjoy the game. Hopefully they will be more clinical in front of goal and give me a good send-off!"
As for his opposite number Tay, he will be bidding to win his club's fourth Singapore Cup, following triumphs in 2002, 2004 and 2006, which will also mean that the Stags will equal the Cup tally of the Warriors.
His side may still be in the thick of things in the title race, but Tay left no doubt as to where his priorities lay for now.
"We're taking it as it comes along. There is the title-decider game next week but the focus for me now is this match," he said firmly.
Contrary to Bok's point of view, the 50-year-old felt that this match would be a totally different ball game from the league encounter last week
"A cup final is definitely going to be different to how it is played in the league. Both teams should be morre cautious and not want to make any mistakes," he concluded.
He is confident that his side will be able to handle the rice-cooker of an atmosphere in the Jalan Besar Stadium on Cup final day.
"Being a coach or being a player, regardless of [us] being after the title or not, there is always pressure but we are still going for the win. Any team that reached this far will definitely not want to lose," Tay concluded.