GIVEN the acrimonious nature of his departure from Johor Darul Takzim, one would be forgiven for thinking that Fandi Ahmad is champing at the bit to put one over on his former employer.
But no, says the LionsXII coach. "Not at all."
Speaking to The Straits Times ahead of Tuesday's crunch Malaysian Super League clash in Larkin, he insisted that "it's just another big game for us".
"I've still got a good relationship with the club," Fandi said, adding that he is in regular contact with JDT officials and club president Tunku Ismail Idris, the state's Crown Prince.
The former national captain, 51, left the big-spending outfit in August after being relieved of his coaching duties amid allegations of player power.
While he downplayed the significance of his return across the Causeway, Fandi admitted that JDT represent the biggest threat to his side's hopes of retaining their MSL crown.
"On paper, they're the best team in the league," he said of an outfit teeming with Malaysia internationals, former LionsXII stalwarts Baihakki Khaizan and Hariss Harun, as well as Argentinian star Pablo Aimar.
But as he quickly pointed out, having the best players does not always guarantee success.
"We don't have the players of JDT," Fandi said. "But what we lack in technical ability and experience, we make up for with determination and teamwork."
This was evident in Saturday's 2-1 victory over Selangor at the Jalan Besar Stadium, in which a young LionsXII side - average age 22.5 - impressed their coach with a display of character.
"It was a tough game but the boys worked very hard," Fandi said. "They never gave up, right until the final minute."
He also paid tribute to striker Khairul Amri, whose stoppage- time header secured the team's first win of the season.
And more is expected of the Singapore international, with Fandi having set him a target of netting 12-15 goals this season.
"With his ability, he can achieve that," Singapore's favourite footballing son said.
Amri is, however, just one of several attacking players in the LionsXII ranks on whom the coach is depending for goals; fellow striker Sufian Anuar, for example, is expected to contribute 8-10.
"I've set targets for them, Gabriel (Quak) Faris (Ramli) and several others," Fandi said.
"From defence to attack, I want everybody to chip in."
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