Tough act to follow, but Stewart's game

He coached Balestier Khalsa to their first piece of silverware last season since the S-League was formed in 1996.

But, just four months after the Tigers’ StarHub League Cup triumph last July, Darren Stewart parted ways with the club under a shroud of controversy.

The Australian laid low for a period, but he will once again prowl the touchline at S-League games this coming season — this time as coach of Woodlands Wellington.

Speaking to The New Paper at Turf City yesterday, Stewart said he wanted to put the saga of his departure from Balestier, whom he also played for from 1999 to 2001, behind him.

“Sacked, released, terminated or whatever way you want to put it, I’m not there any more,” he said, declining to comment about rumours of a spat between him and Tigers chairman S Thavaneson leading to the parting of ways.

GOOD YEARS

“I can only look back and say I had two good years at the club.

“I just have to move on and not dwell on it. Luckily for me, I found a club in Woodlands who welcomed me with open arms.”

After finishing bottom of the S-League from 2009 to 2012, Woodlands surprised the football fraternity when they finished fifth last season.

Their coach, former Singapore midfielder Salim Moin, left for greener pastures, taking charge of S-League champions of the past three seasons, Tampines Rovers.

Stewart, 47, who coached Gombak United from 2009 to 2011 before taking charge of Balestier in 2012, accepted the position two weeks ago.

The former Australia international admitted he had a big task on his hands, especially as most of the Woodlands squad had already been signed before his appointment.

But he is relishing the task.

“It’s the biggest challenge I’ve had in my coaching career, and I’m embracing it,” said Stewart, who will be embarking on a Uefa Pro Licence course soon.

“I hadn’t even spoken to a few of the boys before our first training session.

“Salim did me no favours by doing so well last season, but we have a good team here.

“We definitely want to finish in the top half again and I think we can do it.”

During a busy off-season, the Rams retained only six local players and lost the services of Singapore international defender Shariff Allapitchay to Tampines.

But they kept the spine of last year’s team intact, retaining veteran goalkeeper Yazid Yasin, defenders Rosman Sulaiman and Shahril Alias, Japanese midfielder Atsushi Shimono and South Korean forwards Chang Jo Yoon and Moon Soon Ho.


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