By Khalis Rifhan
Since being appointed as head coach of Tampines Rovers in early August this year, ex-technical director Tay Peng Kee has been put under the spotlight.
The decision was made after club chairman Teo Hock Seng felt that changes were needed, as the Stags entered the final rounds of matches in the S.League.
Tay, a former Singapore international having represented the nation at the 1984 Asian Cup, replaced another Singapore player, Steven Tan, who resumed his former position as head coach of the Tampines Prime League squad.
It has not been all smooth sailing for Tay. The Stags met resistance in his first game in charge, against Hougang United and eventually escaped with a point in a match clouded by controversy after referee Abdul Malik's decision to blow the final whistle during a Hougang attack in the dying seconds.
“We had a bad outing in my first game and of course there were some problems; the boys are not used to the system which I had wanted to play," admitted Tay.
"I wanted to play a quicker pace of football, but the team is not used to it and after that game, we had a meeting [between] both players and coaching staff, to thrash out anything and everything.”
That meeting was not just about sorting out the problems. Tay also explained that he used the opportunity to foster a better team spirit.
He continued: “The key component that I have been working on since taking over is to build up team morale, and lift up their spirit. That was what I felt was lacking in the team, and I am trying to enforce it in the dressing room now.
“It was an open heart-to-heart talk between the players and me. I got to know how the players felt and as a result of this session, the players gave me what I wanted in their next match against Home United.”
Tay also revealed that he had to intervene after seeing how Noh Alam Shah was being treated by the squad after the striker's surprise return to Singapore football.
The Indonesia-based former Singapore international arrived at Clementi Stadium on loan during the mid-season transfer window, but was initially not welcomed by his new teammates.
“Alam [Shah] is definitely an asset to the team, but the only problem which I've seen since working with him is that most of those around him in the team have negative thoughts about him," revealed Tay.
"And I think that is not fair. Alam Shah should be given a chance.
“I spoke to the players about this in the meeting, and told them that they must welcome Alam Shah into the squad as a player.
"Why are we shutting down the door on him even before we give him a chance to prove himself?”
After seeing positive results from this man-management system, Tay hopes that he will be able to continue working with the squad beyond the current season.
“It is basically the management's decision and also I am considering about it, but it’s all up to the management," began Tay. "We don’t talk in detail about [plans for] next year now, as our objective now is to get the job done for this season first.
“If I am still involved, I will probably look at plans for two or three years down the road, whether as a coach or a technical staff. I would like to have a long term relationship with the club.”