Football: Sundram tipped to be new Lions coach

After almost 16 years, the Singapore national football team could be led by a local coach once again.

The Straits Times understands that Tampines Rovers' head coach V. Sundramoorthy, 50, has emerged as a front runner for the job vacated by German Bernd Stange last month.

The last local to coach the Lions on a permanent basis was Vincent Subramaniam, who held the job from 1999 to 2000.

Sundram, who on Tuesday guided Tampines into the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup round of 16, was interviewed by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) last week. Both parties are expected to meet soon to finalise terms, including job scope and expectations.

Responding to queries from ST, an FAS spokesman would only say: "We are finalising the appointment and we expect to make an announcement within the next two weeks."

The new coach's contract will possibly be only till the end of the year, with a foreign coach the likely long-term option.

That said, a good showing at November's ASEAN Football Federation Championship, which Singapore have won four times, could sway the mind of selectors.

It is also unclear where this leaves current national assistant coach Fandi Ahmad, reportedly one of the leading candidates for the job.

Reports in March said he was set to leave the FAS fold although it is understood he had interviewed for the national coaching job.

Sundram, who has previously stated his desire to coach the national team one day, said he is focused on the Stags' game against Home United today and declined to comment.

Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra said he had given Sundram his blessings to interview for the Lions job as "the national agenda has always been the key", but reassured fans that the club would not be hit hard should Sundram depart.

Krishna added: "Sundram's coaching style is such that he institutionalises the style of play. We have coach Akbar (Nawas) who's a very astute and supportive assistant and would be a good coach in the wings."

Known for his tactical acumen and defensive nous, Sundram is not new to the national set-up. He had assisted Stange, along with Fandi, for national team matches since June last year.

The former national player had also coached the Lions for the AFC Asian Cup 2015 qualifying match against Jordan in 2013 after Raddy Avramovic stepped down.

His first taste of coaching came in 1999 when he was appointed player-coach for Jurong FC, a post he held till 2003.

Thereafter, he held numerous appointments within the national set-up before being appointed coach of the LionsXII in 2012.

His crowning achievement came a year later when he led the LionsXII to the Malaysian Super League title.

If appointed, his first assignment is a quadrangular football tournament next month in Myanmar. Vietnam and Hong Kong are the other teams involved.

The Lions play the hosts in a semi-final on June 3. The final and third-place play-off is on June 6.

This article was first published on May 13, 2016.
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