BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
The 2019 season has been a good one so far for Selangor midfielder Sarkunan Krishnansamy. His third season on the Red Giants' first team has seen the 23-year old getting more playing time in the middle of the park, under head coach B. Satiananthan.
Sarkunan has made a total of 17 appearances this season, only one of them as a substitute, helping the Red Giants end their Super League campaign in third place.
His role as a defensive midfielder, intercepting the opposition passes as his team's first line of defence, has turned him into one of the club's standout performers this season.
But earning the trust of Satiananthan was not an easy task, especially when the experienced trainer, by his own admission prefers to field experienced players over the younger ones.
When Goal sat down for an interview with the Kajang lad last week, he explained that he identified another of the coach's player preference in order to earn his trust; hardwork in training.
"I always make sure that I'm among the first players to arrive for training. I'll be here around 3 pm, change into the training kit, have a drink, work on my fitness in the gym, jog three to five laps around the pitch, all before joining team training, just to show the coach how much I want to play.
"I first got to play in a competitive match under him against Pahang (1-1 Super League draw on February 24), and I think I managed to convince him to make me a regular player in that match.
"He is a strict coach, but a fatherly kind of strict. What he says goes. I remember getting yelled at by him constantly in my next appearance, against Terengganu FC. I came on as an early substitution for Endrick (midfielder Endrick dos Santos), and he had to keep shouting at me 'Don't stay up the pitch!' But he's a cool guy outside of training and matches, very experienced, and I've improved a lot under him," explained the midfielder.
B. Satiananthan. Photo by Sports Regime
The club recently completed renovation of their SUK (state secretariat complex) training ground in Shah Alam, and Sarkunan, who has been with them for six years, is appreciative of the facility improvements which have allowed him to train better.
"We didn't have all this six years ago," he said matter-of-factly. "There was a small gym, but it was only made available to the first team. The youth players didn't get to use it. But the board now takes a good care of the junior players as well.
"Having a lounge is nice, but most importantly is the work done on the training pitches. Let me tell you something, they are the best pitches in the state of Selangor, even better than the Shah Alam Stadium pitch. Wak (training ground groundsman Ahmad Qudri Sajol) has done a tremendous job.
"And now that we have the proper basic facilities; they gym, the physio treatment area, it's going to be easier for the club to convince our best players to stay, and also to attract the best talents in the country to join in the future."
The Selangor Training Centre
He praised the new club board under the leadership of president, Tengku Amir Shah Sultan Sharafuddin for the improvements, as well as for their better concern for the players' welfare.
"Things have been a lot better for us since the new board and president were elected midway through the 2018 season. Under the previous board, there was one time we didn't get paid for three months due to financial issues.
"Back then there was favouritism too in players' selection. The management picked who got to play instead of the head coach, and certain players kept getting picked under the board's instructions," he revealed.
With under-the-hood matters now taken care of diligently by the club, Sarkunan can concentrate on improving himself as a defensive midfielder.
"I just love this role as it allows me to play on my own, as compared to other roles," he explained. "Having a midfield partner somewhat limits the freedom of my movements because I need to be in tune with him.
"I love playing either as a defensive midfielder, or as a central one where I can go box-to-box, which is something I don't get to do often to be honest.
"My favourite midfielder to watch is Halim (Selangor and Malaysia player Halim Saari), who gets involved in the attack more.
Sarkunan now plans to emulate Halim, whom he looks up to, and wants to catch the eye of Malaysia head coach Tan Cheng Hoe.
Halim Saari (right). Photo by Sports Regime
"I've fulfilled my objective of playing regularly for Selangor this year, and I still need to improve more in the Malaysia Cup, but I now want to play for Malaysia too. There are comparatively fewer defensive midfielders in the country than there are attacking ones, and I want to show to everyone that there is a defensive midfielder at Selangor who's good enough to play for Malaysia.
"But in order to do that, I need to work on several aspects of my game first; such as in-game communication, composure in possession, physique and long passes. I have to learn to ping those long-range deliveries like Halim, my idol does first!" he noted earnestly with a laugh.
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