Sundram set to helm Negeri

JULY 2: LionsXII coach V. Sundramoorthy is thrown in the air by his players after they beat Felda United.

The search is on for a new coach for Singapore's SEA Games football team.

This, after sources confirmed that V. Sundramoorthy is set to join Malaysian club Negeri Sembilan in November, after the ongoing Malaysia Cup campaign ends. The Straits Times learnt that the 47-year-old, who recently led the LionsXII to the Malaysian Super League (MSL) title, has agreed a two-year, double-your-money deal to helm Negeri next season.

This means he will not lead the national Under-23 side at the December Games in Myanmar. Courts Young Lions coach Aide Iskandar will likely be handed that job, with national coach Bernd Stange in an advisory role.

Sources said that a deal was struck between Sundram and Negeri officials during talks a fortnight ago, before the LionsXII's disappointing Malaysia Cup campaign kicked off.

Both sides had agreed not to speak publicly on the matter until he serves a two-month notice to the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) next week. His current contract expires in December.

When contacted on the subject on Wednesday, Negeri's media officer Abdul Malek Hassan said: "You will know soon enough." Sundram himself declined comment on that night.

The New Paper had previously reported that last year's Treble winners Kelantan and Negeri had offered Sundram deals.

An ST source confirmed that Negeri's offer would double the coach's salary to around $15,000 a month. It is believed that the FAS had also offered a two-year extension with a wage bump to around $11,000, but it could not guarantee Sundram that he would take over as national coach - a job which the tactician has always wanted - one day.

An FAS official, who requested anonymity, told ST that Sundram has yet to respond to its offer made two weeks ago. Though the FAS was braced for his departure, it had expected him to stay on as Singapore's coach at the SEA Games in good faith.

Sundram won the first league title of his 14-year coaching career after inspiring a young, inexperienced LionsXII outfit to MSL glory last month.

He was widely praised for his tactics, as his side won 10 out of 11 home matches at the Jalan Besar Stadium, and put up strong defences to pick up vital points in away games. Still, leading Negeri, who were relegated to the Premier League after finishing last in the 12-team MSL, will be no easy task.

But a source involved in the negotiations said Sundram felt the time had come for a fresh challenge, having turned down formal approaches from Perak and Terengganu last year. He also wants to test his coaching acumen at regional competitions such as the AFC Cup.

The LionsXII are not allowed to compete in such tournaments as part of their agreement to join the MSL.

"As soon as Negeri got relegated, the club identified Sundram as the man to rebuild the side and (lead their) return to the top tier quickly," said the source.

It is understood that Sundram will have free reign in the transfer market to refresh the ailing outfit, who won just one of their 22 league matches this year. Negeri's football association is led by the state's chief minister, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, who wants to recreate the club's past glories.

Their Malaysian FA Cup win in 2010 was bookended by Malaysia Cup triumphs in 2009 and 2011. They also won the MSL for the first time in 2006. This year, the exodus of key players such as winger S. Kunanlan and striker Jean Emmanuel Effa has hit them hard.

Portuguese coach Divaldo Alves was released after the dismal MSL campaign,with Ridzuan Abu Shah serving as caretaker for the ongoing Malaysia Cup.

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