No U-turn from tough training for Home United

Home United coach Lee Lim Saeng (with cap), seen barking out orders at a training session ahead of the RHB Singapore Cup final with Tanjong Pagar.

Home United coach Lee Lim Saeng has had a history of disagreements with players and staff at the S-League football club but the Korean is not about to retreat from, or apologise, for his no-nonsense approach.

"Smoking and drinking," he said, when asked to name some bad habits he has noted in some of his players over the four seasons he has been with the two-time champions. "Singapore's weather is hot and humid. You need fitness to play here.

"If you can control your body, rest well and eat well, it will show in your performances."

Lee, whose contract was extended by two years in September, insisted: "I'm not here for the money. I want to contribute to Singapore football by developing players.

"If I can't, I will not stay."

A former defender for South Korea who earned 25 caps and played in the 1-1 group-stage draw against Belgium in the 1998 World Cup Finals in France, Lee is noted for his "my way or the highway" approach to man-management.

During his tenure, the 41-year-old has fallen out with maverick Brazilian Peres de Oliveira, Chilean playmaker Nelson San Martin, England-born Singaporean John Wilkinson and national defender Shariff Samat - all stars of the Protectors squad.

Lee explained that, for him, no player is bigger than the team.

He said: "I like and respect these players. But, as a coach, I cannot expect to accommodate individuals. I have to think about the whole team.

"If any of them is unhappy with me, I apologise. I only want them to be better players."

But there are those who have bought into his vision and swear by his methods.

One such player is former national skipper Indra Sahdan. Once one of local football's highest-paid stars, reportedly earning more than $10,000 a month, he found himself playing in the amateur National Football League last year after he was out of contract.

But the 34-year-old, who neither smokes nor drinks, was brought back from the wilderness by Home.

He returned to the elite level fitter and sharper, prompting a national recall in May, three years after his last appearance in Singapore colours.

Home captain Noh Rahman also made a comeback to the Lions' fold this season, two years after his last selection. Noh, 33, said: "Coach Lee has played at the highest level in the World Cup.

"He knows about high-level football and his training sessions are very tough. As players, we are obliged to try our best and adapt to his methods."

Given his calibre as a former coach of K-League giants Suwon Bluewings, Lee's failure to win the S-League so far has given his critics ammunition. It has been a decade since Home last lifted the trophy in 2003.

They finished second this year on 51 points, five behind champions Tampines Rovers.

But, tomorrow, he will lead the team out at Jalan Besar Stadium to face Tanjong Pagar United in the RHB Singapore Cup final to attempt to end the campaign with silverware.

"It's not enough," he said of his reign at Home which has yielded just one Singapore Cup win in 2011. "It's such a pity I've never won the S-League. That's why I'm determined to achieve more before the end of my contract in 2015."

Against Tanjong Pagar, Lee will have to do without three key players. Forward Masrezwan Masturi and left-back Juma'at Jantan are suspended while Indra has a fractured left leg.

Still, he has promised the Jaguars a fight, saying: "I respect Tanjong Pagar, they are a good side. All I can say is, my team will play hard until the final minute."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.