Credited with helping Oman's Ali Al-Habsi find fame with Wigan and having worked with English football's top shot-stoppers like Tim Flowers, Paul Robinson and Nigel Martyn, Singapore goalkeeping coach John Burridge firmly believes the Lions' Hassan Sunny is now peerless in South-east Asia.
The reigning S-League Player of the Year is on the verge of completing a move to Thai Premier League side Army United and Burridge was unequivocal about what he thought of Singapore's No. 1.
The Englishman, who recommended Hassan to Army United coach, ex-Tottenham Hotspur defender Gary Stevens, told The Straits Times: "I know Gary very well and I told him: 'You are getting the best goalkeeper in South-east Asia.'
"I've worked with Hassan about a year now. I see him make magnificent saves day in and day out in training. He deserves a chance to play overseas."
Hassan impressed during a two-day trial in Bangkok last week. He played an hour for the club in a 0-1 friendly loss to Muangthong United. The 30-year-old is negotiating personal terms and a move is expected to be finalised by the end of the week.
Stevens said: "All I will say is I'm hoping that Army United will sign him."
The former England international declined to comment on the player's qualities as contract talks have yet to be finalised.
Burridge believes Hassan, who is 1.86m tall and weighs 85kg, has the physical and technical attributes to succeed at a high level.
"He is a great communicator and has got great presence. He's got everything - size, reflexes, shot-stopping ability, the right attitude and he's not afraid of big games," said the Englishman.
In fact, Burridge, who played for the likes of Newcastle and Manchester City in a career spanning 28 years, believes Hassan can make the cut at a higher level.
The flamboyant coach, 63, said: "I say this and I don't joke about such things - he wouldn't look out of place in the English Premier League. In fact, I've spoken to people
in England about Hassan. I said that about Al-Habsi and people laughed at me.
"My reputation is on the line here. I wouldn't ring people up for no reason. If he can't make it, I won't recommend him."
If the move goes through, Hassan will be the second Singaporean after John Wilkinson, who turned out for Police United in 2011, to play in the Thai Premier League. He is currently with S-League side Tampines Rovers and said they will let him join Army United and take up the club's Asian Player spot.
Said Hassan: "Coach Gary told me he wants me to be the No. 1 at the club. He thinks I'm able to compete in the league. Even though I haven't signed, it's good to get this kind of endorsement.
"I know it won't be easy and people will ask why the club wants to use a foreign spot on a goalkeeper. If everything goes through, then it's my turn to repay them and make sure I am important to the team."
He will be 31 in April but said: "I'm still young for a goalkeeper and I'm learning every day. Even during the short trial, I felt I improved as a player.
"Sometimes, you need to be in a situation where you are struggling to improve, and I want to get out of my comfort zone, adapt, learn and be a better footballer."
Name: Hassan Sunny
International Caps: 48
Honours: AFF C'ship (2004, 2007), SEA Games bronze medal (2007), S-League champion (2011, 2014), Player of the Year (2014)
This article was first published on January 21, 2015.
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