When V. Sundramoorthy led the LionsXII to the Malaysia Super League (MSL) title last season in only their second foray in the league, he exceeded all expectations set out to him.
How can someone top possibly match what Sundram has achieved?
For new head coach Fandi Ahmad, the pressure to match the achievements of his predecessor seems a daunting one and it is something the former national striker readily admits.
“I'm very glad to be appointed as the new LionsXII coach for the new season,” Fandi told reporters at the pre-season press conference at the Jalan Besar Stadium last Tuesday.
“With my coaching staff and backroom staff, I believe we can do something. It’s not going to be impossible but it will be very, very difficult for us to emulate last season’s success.
“[There is] so much pressure on me and the team to deliver again but it’s not impossible because I believe in these players. Even though they are young, they have shown strong character and with some of the senior players coming back like Sufian [Anuar] and [Khairul] Amri, I believe we can guide them.”
Fandi also paid tribute to Sundram for helping the boys develop into a team of winners, as he has seen from their recent training tour in Indonesia.
“Most importantly I would like to thank Sundram for leaving a great bunch of boys who are capable of winning the title,” he said.
“It’s not easy after the success as many players have gone across the Causeway, but I believe we have good character because during our training tour of Indonesia for nine days, even though we didn’t have a full squad, I thought they fought very hard. With that experience I hope they will be ready for the MSL season.”
Despite the optimism, Fandi is aware that defending the title this season will be much tougher than winning it.
“This season will be different as it will be harder than last season,” Fandi acknowledged.
“The Malaysian teams can sign up to four foreign players. For us it’s local players who average 22.5 years old. I’m not worried about the pressure; it’s just how we are going to perform there.
“We need to show a lot of character playing against stronger teams. That’s why we had pre-season in Yogyakarta. The boys showed a lot of character, passion and hard work, because without hard work we won’t go anywhere.”
The team has already got off to a losing start, going down 1-0 to Pahang FA on Friday in the Charity Shield, which also doubled up as the first league game. They next face KL DRB Hicom in the Malaysia FA Cup on Tuesday.
The LionsXII will play their first home match of the season in the Malaysia FA Cup this coming Tuesday against KL DRB Hicom at the Bishan Stadium.