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Satiananthan on Facebook, rebuilding Selangor and catching up to JDT

08:29 SAST 2019/07/09
B. Satiananthan, Selangor, Malaysia Super League, 09022018
Selangor boss B. Satiananthan spoke frankly of his team's progress, unfair fans' expectations and the future of the club with Goal.

BY        ZULHILMI ZAINAL       Follow on Twitter

The plan was simple; for Goal to attend Selangor's training session two days before their Super League match against Felda United last weekend to ask head coach B. Satiananthan about the encounter, something that should have taken three minutes at the most.

But that plan right out the window, when the 61-year old coach suggested to Goal writer Zulhilmi Zainal that he was not particularly happy with an earlier Goal story on the team.

The misunderstanding was cleared, and what followed was a frank 20-minute chat with the outspoken trainer on topics such as social media, the fans' expectation, his contract at the Red Giants, newly-crowned league champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT), as well as his own team's rebuilding process. Be warned, the experienced coach used strong language in this interview, underlining his strong feelings towards the aforementioned topics.

For the umpteenth time, Satiananthan touched on the issue of fans' expectation of him and his team, a topic that was the subject of the Goal story he raised upon meeting the writer.

"You must remember that in the past recent years Selangor have finished the Super League in fifth, sixth and eighth places, not even in the top three. What else do the ultras (the group of Selangor fans who recently raised a banner criticising what they perceived to be his lack of ambition) want? They want to qualify for Asian competitions? We're simply not ready. 

"We can go, but simply as participants, not as competition champions like what JDT did, as I suspect the fans and ultras will think. I understand that they're frustrated, but I know what it takes to play at the continental stage from my time with Felda United. It's not easy," he opined.

He also remarked on the lack of information provided by the club to the fans, which he felt had been one of the causes of their displeasure towards him.

"These buggers never read the papers when I said Halim [Saari] and other players were injured, and I then read [a social media comment]; 'why isn't Halim being played ?' Another time I was barracked by the fans for not fielding Taylor [Regan], when he was being suspended for accumulated bookings. They don't understand, yet they call themselves fans.

"I told the club media team; 'You people are so stupid. You should post the injury list and player availability on the Facebook page.' They should come and interview me, and I can tell them. [In any case] I think the club is too active on Facebook, when Facebook is nothing. Manchester United have millions of social media followers, and their stadium is full everytime they play. [Selangor have] 250,000, but only 3,000 turn up to watch us play at home. If I ask Iflix (official Super League broadcaster) about their viewing numbers, they will probably say 10 or 15,000. Where is the remaining 180,000?" he asked pointedly.

Satiananthan is nevertheless happy with the space and support provided by the association board, and insisted that every coach needs time, drawing a local and foreign comparison.

"Early in the season, I'd told the players that my aim is to end the league campaign in the top three, that's all. The Malaysia Cup is when this team will mature, because the players are still adapting. The FA Cup [campaign] is not a true reflection of the team's strengths.

"Mehmet (former Selangor coach Mehmet Durakovic) needed two seasons before he could deliver silverware during his time. Alex Ferguson needed three years and was almost sacked by Manchester United before he won his first trophy, the FA Cup, after which he stayed on for 20 over years. But I lose one match and the fans start saying that I'm too old and my tactics are outdated. You tell me what fucking tactics can I implement? These tactics are all the same from the past, the only difference is the individuals who are playing.

Mehmet Durakovic. Photo by Antara

"It's a process, and team-building takes time. It's a big improvement to go from the eighth place last season to within the top-four this year. We're not spending more than last year, and are spending less than teams currently lower than us in the standings. Why is there a need to panic?

"Now at least we can see the team keeping the ball better and passing the ball around more, and I'm surprised that the possession in the match against JDT (on June 19) was 50-50. I don't think a visiting team has ever had 50 per cent of the possession against JDT. We are starting to play, but sometimes we don't play well.

"I was very happy that when a publication ran the news that I was supposedly going to be sacked, on the same day, RMS (association president and Selangor state crown prince Tengku Amir Shah Sultan Sharafuddin) himself told me that although we lost 4-0 to PKNS FC (Super League match in February), he was happy with the performance and that he saw progress. I was relieved, it gave me a huge boost of confidence and motivated me to work harder. As long as the club president tells you that, I know that I'm on the right track. That's all that matters," said the former Malaysia head coach wistfully.

Having secured the backing of the president and guided the team through its difficult first year under him, Satiananthan now turns his attention towards helping the 33-time Malaysia Cup champions shape its future, to perhaps tilt the balance of power away from JDT and towards them once again, although he was quick to add that he may not stay on for long.

The state secretariat (SUK) complex pitch, in Shah Alam, now leased from the state government and 90 percent into its renovation process, is one of the first steps in the club's future preparations, according to him.

"I'm not going to ask for Selangor to keep me, I'll never do that. It's up to them to judge. Sure, my contract includes a clause that if I win a cup then it'll automatically be extended for another season, which I don't really like because sometimes it should be decided by me; whether I'm happy or not. But I'm happy [now] because the team has been progressing more than in the past three seasons.

"When I first joined Selangor, I told Johan (club secretary-general Johan Kamal Hamidon] to get that field done and the dressing room renovated first. You know why? Because at the time the club wanted to approach [former Chelsea and Ghana star] Michael Essien. But if he did come, he would have taken one look at all the faeces lying around the training ground, signed the contract, only to later feign an injury and return to London supposedly for treatment, never to come back here.

"And proper facilities too will help us entice players to join Selangor in the future, like what is happening at JDT. You ask any players which team do they want to play for? They're going to say it's JDT. Those who have approached me, did so because JDT don't want them. But there have been JDT players who approached me asking; 'How about next year, coach? The pressure is too much here.' Butoh.  You're getting paid big money, of course it's going to come with the pressure to perform well. That's the professional way!

"[For Selangor] we start with the facilities, and then we identify the players we want, and by 'we' I mean Selangor. They must have four grade A players; national team regulars, four or five grade B national team members, [Malaysia] U-23 players such as Syahmi [Safari] and five good foreigners. This is how you start building a team. I can say that at the moment, Selangor have around 50 per cent of players who are good enough. If we have this as well as the facilities, Selangor can challenge JDT.

"JDT started around 2013 but everything clicked for them in 2014, earlier than TMJ (JDT owner and Johor state crown prince Tengku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim) expected. Everyone thought that they would be whacked in their first ever AFC Champions League campaign this season, instead they've proven that they're not far behind Chinese clubs. So they're gunning for the quarter-finals in the following season. When you plan for the next two years, sometimes things happen in the following year. Maybe. The planning must start [from now on], and the man who will be the Selangor coach has to identify the players and he has to have the trust of the club management.

"I was appointed by Selangor very late, after the other teams have appointed their head coaches, after Selangor have made signings. I added a number of players with the intention of providing depth to and helping the team. I've made one or two [signing] mistakes, but in overall, 80 per cent of the players I've signed are performing well now, and I'm happy," he explained.

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