It is the end of a five-year era at the Bishan Stadium, and probably the start of something quite unique.
South Korean Lee Lim Saeng stepped down as head coach of Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League club Home United with effect from Dec 5, and the Bishan-based giants have looked within their own ranks to find his successor.
Philippe Aw, the club's Prime League head coach, who helmed their Under-21 side that romped to the title last season, will take over the reins from Lee for next season.
"Aw has been with Home as a player from 1999, rising through the ranks as a staff coach.
"He is deeply entrenched in the values and philosophy of the club," said Home chief executive Azrulnizam Shah in a statement to The New Paper.
Aw had presided over an unbeaten run in the Prime League and a 20-point winning margin over second-placed the National Football Academy Under-18 team.
"He will work closely together with a team of specialist coaches and the coaching staff and has the full support and confidence of the club's management."
Home, who are one of the local powerhouses with two league titles (1999 and 2003) and six RHB Singapore Cup wins (2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2011 and 2013) under their belt, have a record of going for big-name coaches.
Lee, who was the club's head coach for the last five seasons, was formerly with K-League side Suwon Samsung Bluewings, and even represented South Korea at two World Cup Finals.
Their other former coaches are no slouches either.
Zolts Bucs was a former Hungary international, and Singaporeans Vincent Subramaniam and P N Sivaji both handled the Republic's national team at some point in their careers.
In his term as Home coach, Lee won two titles - both in the Singapore Cup in 2011 and 2013 - and fell just short of the S.League summit twice in those same years.
Home ended the last season without a title, falling to Balestier Khalsa in the Singapore Cup final, and finishing fourth in the league. "Lee instilled a brand of football developed along the club's tenets of discipline, fitness and commitment, which has brought us two RHB Singapore Cup titles and two runners-up positions in the S.League," said Azrulnizam of the club's longest-serving coach.
"Coach Lee's high standard of professionalism, service and great dedication to the club will always be valued and remembered."
While Lee was unable to lead the trophy-hungry Home side to an S.League title, he was known as a disciplinarian who took a no-nonsense approach to fitness.
His philosophy helped revive the career of veteran Indra Sahdan, even seeing the forward earn a recall to Bernd Stange's national team, while also seemingly adding an additional lung to Isa Halim's steely game.
But his stint was also overshadowed by some controversies, with public fallouts with players such as Peres de Oliveira, John Wilkinson, and one-time assistant coach Akihiro Nakamura.
But Home prefer to remember the South Korean for his best moments.
Said Azrulnizam: "Home wish Lee the very best for his future endeavours and every success in his coaching career."
The Protectors have already released the likes of Qiu Li, Indra, Kwon Dakyung, Precious Emuejeraye, Izzdin Shahfiq and Fazrul Nawaz (signed for Malaysian Premier League side Sabah FA), and will finalise their team for the new season only after pre-season trials and selections by the end of next month.
This article was first published on Dec 11, 2014.
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