BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Former player, assistant head coach and caretaker boss K. Gunalan has returned to Selangor, this time around as the team's U-21 head coach.
In his previous stint at the Red Giants, he had been the assistant to then head coach Zainal Abidin Hassan, and when Zainal was relieved of his duties mid-way through the 2016 season, he took over as caretaker, taking them to the Malaysia Cup final, a match in which they lost to Kedah on penalties.
He returned to his assistant post the following year, before rejoining Zainal at Pulau Pinang, a stint that lasted until the end of the 2018 season. But this year, he is back with his former team, under a new management, this time as part of its youth department.
"I'm happy to be back, leading the President Cup team, and I'd like to express my gratitude towards Tengku Amir Shah Sultan Sharafuddin (association president) and secretary-general Johan [Kamal Hamidon] for giving me the opportunity to serve the team again.
"I had contacted Datuk Sugumaran (Sugumaran Parthasaraty, executive committee member) and Johan, applying to take up a youth coaching job here. I had previously worked with youth teams until 2003, as well as with the Malaysian FA at the Bandar Penawar Sports School from 2013 to 2015, so it's not unfamiliar to me," explained the former Malaysia international on how the return happened.
This season, he has two targets to meet, he revealed to Goal earlier this week.
"We're doing it on a long-term basis, until 2020. I want my boys to play well as the the other teams in their group are also good. They have been doing well with two wins out of two matches (on Wednesday they would defeat UiTM FC 1-0 on the third matchday), but I want them to do it consistently. We want to reach the quarter-finals.
"Besides this, I want three or four of my boys to make their senior team debut this season, and I hope that they get noticed by our first team set-up," said Gunalan.
And for that, he is thankful that he has a good working relationship with senior team head coach Satiananthan Bhaskran, who according to him is always prepared to assist him and his young charges.
"Satia and I have had discussions, and for example, earlier he sent down two of the younger boys; Kugan Dhevarajan, Amirul Haziq [Rasmizal] and Azizul Baharuddin to play with us to get more playing minutes. If I can push them harder, I can get them ready for the 2020 season.
"It goes the other way too; during the first team pre-season trip to Bangkok, he took one of my boys Aqil [Fadhly Yusop, goalkeeper] along. I want this relationship to continue until we can bring success to the team," he noted.
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