Balagumaran keen to build for the future

Gombak United coach K. Balagumaran is not willing to take any shortcuts as he looks to transform the Bulls into one of the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League's top sides.

Football News: Gombak United

By Gabriel Tan

With half the 2012 S.League campaign gone, Gombak are currently 11th on the table but their lowly position fails to reflect the impact they have made in the season so far.

Having blooded several youngsters alongside a core of seasoned players, Balagumaran has helped the Bulls become one of the most entertaining sides in the league, although consistency appears to be the only missing ingredient as they have failed to hold on to a result in several matches.

Nonetheless, Balagumaran, who took over at the Jurong West Stadium at the start of the season, believes his team are on the right track and insists giving more youngsters a chance can only be good for the club and Singaporean football as a whole.

"I'm personally quite satisfied with the team's performance in the first round of the campaign," Balagumaran told ESPNSTAR.com in an exclusive interview. "It's my first year here and I've brought in new players - I'm satisfied and the management are as well.

"Before I came, I've always had this philosophy of blending youth with senior players. Surprisingly, the management were very supportive of this.

"I brought in some players who were initially meant to be cover for others, but they have done very well and the management see that there's a future.

"For me, this is good for Singapore football. If boys aged 19 to 21 are playing regularly in the S.League, they should be ready to play for the national team by the time they're 25 and that's a good thing. I think what we're doing is good for Singapore."

Balagumaran also admits the emergence of youngsters such as Nurullah Hussein, Muhd Nur Na'iim and Samuel Benjamin has given him a selection headache, although he believes all his players will get their chance to shine depending on the opposition they are facing.

"We are quite happy with the youth coming through the ranks and the fact they are keeping the senior players on their toes," he added.

"It's a good headache to have actually, having to decide who to play. We just keep changing according to the gameplan."

The Gombak boss does however admit his side are missing a real poacher up front, but insists bringing in foreign reinforcements during the mid-season break was never really on the club's agenda. Instead, he is looking to keep his faith in target-man Jung Hee-bong, and Hafiz Rahim and Julien Durand, who excel more playing in withdrawn roles.

"In some of the games we lost and drew, I felt that if we just had someone in the box to put the ball into the back of the net, we could have gotten a result," Balagumaran revealed.

"We don't really have a finisher in our team. We're using Bong, Durand and Hafiz but they're more attacking midfielders and second strikers, rather than an out-and-out striker.

"Considering we're already at the halfway stage of the campaign, the management and I felt if we brought in a new foreigner, he might need time to acclimatise to the weather and culture.

"Even Durand took some time to gel with us but he has done so now, so we don't really see a need to change our foreign players now but maybe next year, we'll bring someone in."

Gombak get the second round of their campaign underway on Friday when they entertain Home United at the Jurong West Stadium and despite the fact they are currently third from bottom, Balagumaran is still targeting a top five finish come the end of the season.

"Before the season started, I set the target of finishing one place higher than last season's sixth place," he added. "It will be a real achievement if we can finish fifth or fourth and I still think that's possible.

"Looking back at the games, if we could have just gotten the three points from those we were supposed to win, we would be sitting comfortably in the top five now. But I still believe we can finish in the top five."

Following Friday's game, Gombak will turn their attentions to the RHB Singapore Cup, where they will face Hougang United in the quarterfinals on May 3 and 7.



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