A new era is supposed to be dawning on Malaysian football, an era of professionalism from top to the bottom of the structure. No more state run associations packed with jobsworth mates of provincial petty potentates but football clubs run by people with know-how and expertise.
God knows, Malaysian football needs it. Johor Darul Ta’zim have long outgrown the league while at the same tie being the benchmark for other clubs to aim for but too often the rest of the league seems to just throw their arms in the air and say ‘we can’t compete’. Is the 2021 season when the rest of the league says ‘we’re gonna give it a go’?
Maybe. Or in the case of Pahang on the east coast of the peninsula maybe not. The Tok Gajah have come closer than anyone to upsetting the JDT behemoth but have always come up short.
Malaysia Super League Runners Up – 2017, 2019
Malaysia Cup Winner – 2013, 2014
FA Cup Winner – 2014, 2018 (Runners Up 2017)
Aiming to improve on a disappointing 2020 season when they finished 8th, Pahang changed their name to Sri Pahang and appointed American Thomas Dooley as coach. Dooley, who I first came across when he played for 1FC Kaiserslautern in 1992/93, is no stranger to the region having coached the Philippines national team (2014-2018) and no doubt expectations were high on the east coast he had a squad ready to challenge for honours.
One player added to the squad was Lee Tuck who was so influential with Terengganu in the 2020 season as they finished third and get to compete in the AFC Cup this season.
Unfortunately the season has started as well as the management were hoping. They lost their opening game 3-1 away to Selangor and things didn’t improve in their first home game, losing 2-0 against Kedah and that’s when the mumbling started. The club are saying nothing, their official website is worse than useless, but on Saturday Dooley wasn’t in the dug out. Instead it was veteran Dollah Salleh and it has been hinted he would remain in charge for the next couple of games as well.
Dooley himself hasn’t said much beyond expressing disappointment at the decision to ‘rest’ him. Speaking to the Star he said �I cannot divulge much information. I totally disagree about this situation but I need to respect it. I have a different view compared to others. Right now, I can�t be involved with the team”.
Today Sri Pahang host Sabah, another winless side, and club management will be hoping Dollah, who has coached the team on two previous occasions, will be able to inspire an immediate return to form in Kuantan.
But for Sri Pahang to challenge consistently the old thinking needs to be ditched. Kuantan wasn’t built in a day and a football team isn’t built after two games. If the coach was good enough to be appointed then surely he is good enough to be given time? Pressing the panic button after two games and saying nothing officially are not the hallmarks of a professional football club.