SINGAPORE - He returned to Tampines with renewed vigour, having led three-time wooden spooners Woodlands Wellington to an impressive fifth-place finish last season.
In the end, the switch from coaching the perennial strugglers to the three-time defending S-League champions proved a step too far for Salim Moin.
Yesterday, the former Tampines and Singapore international midfielder resigned as head coach, having been at the helm for just over four months. He was the Stags' fourth coach in four years.
The 52-year-old's resignation comes after a poor run of just one win in six games, which culminated in the club's elimination from the AFC Cup at the group stage.
Describing Salim's resignation as a shock, Tampines chairman Teo Hock Seng said: "Of course I'm shocked. Losing a game is a shock to me as well."
That said, Teo admitted the club had not been doing well in recent times.
He said: "We did not qualify for the last 16 of the AFC Cup, and we lost two stupid games in the league. It's obviously not good enough."
In February, Tampines failed to make the group stage of the elite AFC Champions League after a 1-2 defeat by Hong Kong side South China in the play-offs.
Last week, the Stags were eliminated from the second-tier AFC Cup at the group stage for the third consecutive year. Despite only needing a draw to go through, the Stags fell 0-1 to Myanmar's Nay Pyi Taw FC at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Their league form this month provided no respite. The Stags lost twice in four games, with a 2-4 reverse at Hougang and a 1-2 defeat by Salim's former club, Woodlands.
It left them sitting third in the league, three points adrift of leaders Brunei DPMM. Nevertheless, Teo defended Salim's appointment, pointing to the latter's solid reputation in the league.
Said Teo: "I've known Salim for a long time. He's professional, and I wanted to give local coaches a chance."
Results aside, the team's conservative style of play under Salim arguably did him no favours.
At the club's annual dinner last year, Teo challenged his club, urging them to "bring football entertainment to the next level".
Instead, from playing a high-tempo offensive game with an emphasis on rampaging wingers, Tampines were consigned to being a long-ball side, with the bulk of their play involving long balls launched from midfield to marquee signing Miljan Mrdakovic.
The search for the next Tampines head coach will begin today after a committee meeting.
The Straits Times understands that assistant coach Rafi Ali will take over first-team training on an interim basis while the club search for a new head coach.
Tampines take on Albirex Niigata next in the S-League on May 1 at Clementi Stadium.
This article was published on April 28 in The Straits Times.
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