Pahang coach wants Chan Vathanaka to return to his best

John Duerden John Duerden

Speaking to John Duerden, Pahang coach Dollah Salleh has demanded more from big-name Cambodian signing Chan Vathanaka after a slow start to the season.

Cambodian superstar Chan Vathanaka has been warned by his new coach in the Malaysian Super League that he needs to up his game.

The attacker is regarded as one of the brightest attacking talents in Southeast Asia but Pahang coach Dollah Salleh has told FOX Sports Asia that he has not been impressed with his new signing so far.

Pahang, tipped by many to be challenging for the title in the 2018 season, have collected just one point from the opening two games. ‘CV11’ has featured in both, but not as well as Dollah would like.

“He is a good player, or he used to be a good player,” Dollah told FOX Sports Asia. “He hasn’t performed at that level he had before in the two games so far this season.”

Pahang drew their opening game 0-0 with Perak TBG and then fell to a mid-week 1-0 loss at the hands of PKNS FC. The pressure is on against Kelantan on Saturday, another one of the Malaysia Super League’s traditional giants that are seeking a first win of the new campaign.

“I hope he improves in the next game,” added the coach. “I know he is a good player. I know he has quality as I have seen him play before. He used to be strong but I don’t know what happened.”

The former coach of the Malaysia national team watched the 24 year-old shine at the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup and also at an international tournament in Vietnam.

Game yesterday pahang 0:0 Perak

A post shared by Chan Vathanaka (@vathanaka_cv11) on

“I don’t know what the problem is at the moment,” added Dollah. “Before, he had a scoring touch and could make things happen on the ball.

“He is not the biggest player but it didn’t matter even when he was playing against big defenders as he could just go past them. He had no problem to deal with foreign defenders.

“In the first of our pre-season games, he played very well. I went up to him to say ‘well played’ but I also told him that I knew he could do better. He said ‘okay, okay’ but, when the season started, then I have not seen much from him.”

In 2017, the attacker went to Japan’s third tier but spent almost the entire season sitting on the sidelines.

“It could be [down to] confidence,” admitted the experienced Malaysian tactician. “It probably has something to do with [his time in] Japan as the talent and quality are certainly there. His time last year can not have helped him but at the moment he needs to improve.”

In Malaysian football, imports are expected to start performing as soon as the season starts. There is little, if any, honeymoon period.

It may be harsh on foreign players but if it is any consolation then the pressure on coaches is even more intense and unforgiving.

Dollah further warned: “When we sign foreign players they have to be better than the local players but there has not been much difference so far.”

“Fans in Pahang have high expectations. Fans are already starting to question me about signing this player. They expect that this guy would be good and can do more than he has done so far.”

Photo credit: Pahang FA