Lions’ player mentor Noh Alam Shah has sent a firm indication of how he plans to run the ship alongside Fandi Ahmad in the Singapore national team setup.
After a couple of months working together at the Young Lions level in the Singapore Premier League, Noh Alam Shah’s role as player mentor under the Football Association of Singapore umbrella has not gotten any easier.
One would think a legend like him, who still holds the record for most goals scored at the AFF Suzuki Cup – 17 in total – will command respect from the get go, but Alam Shah’s notorious reputation and antics during his playing days became an obstacle in itself.
A quick search on Google will throw up an abundance of articles about Alam Shah’s goalscoring prowess, but it also comes with a slew of reports about his on-pitch shenanigans.
From being caught smoking by then Lions coach Vincent Subramaniam in 1999 to his infamous strike on Daniel Bennett in 2009 in a S.League game that earned him a straight red, the man affectionately nicknamed ‘Along’ – the Singlish term for a illegal moneylender – has done it all, both in a good and bad way.
Armed with all that invaluable experience from both sides of the fence, Alam Shah was deemed the right fit to work alongside Fandi in a new-look national team setup that is looking to mount a serious assault on a fifth Suzuki Cup title.
“The hardest part is to let them (the players) know that I am not the same Alam Shah as before,” the former Arema Malang forward told FOX Sports Asia.
“They used to see me play and the young ones have heard stories and watched videos of who I was (as a player) but I am a totally different man now and it was tough getting that across to them initially.
“Sometimes I wonder, when I talk to them, will they think I used to commit the same mistakes and not take my advice? But I take this positively because I am here to show them I can change and you can too.
“I’ve never regretted what I did in the past because without it, I wouldn’t be who I am now. So in this team, if you want to talk about the good stuff, Fandi is there. If you want to talk about the bad stuff, I am here so you cannot bull***t us both. I have done it before so I know how a player thinks, feels and works.”
Despite coming into the fold with a fearsome reputation, Alam Shah knew he had to start from ground zero in order to prove to the current crop of players that he means business.
“When I first came back to the scene, I was bloated and overweight. The boys all laughed at me and now they are the idiots for laughing! I went to the gym for a few weeks, trained with the ball and now they look at me and realise how hard I tried to get here. So this is my way of leading by example and showing them it can be done if you put your head to it.” he explained.
And with only a couple of months under his belt as player mentor, Alam Shah reckons the players have already adopted the coaching staff’s approach, especially with Fandi at the helm.
He added: “I believe the name Fandi Ahmad makes everybody want to do something for him. It is only fair because of what he has done for Singapore football. The youngsters realise how much they learn from playing under him and the seniors are responding well too.
“We are trying to change things up and be successful, like recently, I’ve been going up to Malaysia with Eric (Ong) – Singapore team manager – to speak to Safuwan (Baharudin), Faris (Ramli) and they are all raring to go. I tell you, this new era, if we strike that right balance to complement the experience with the right fresh faces, we will do something special.”
A quick look at Fandi’s first 26-man squad list shows that the Singapore football icon is unafraid of dropping established players and giving youth a chance, something Alam Shah believes will be the key to turning Singapore football’s fortunes around.
“I’ve been in past teams where the senior players like Nazri (Nasir) and Rafi (Ali) were bickering about why they were being dropped. Everyone doubted whether the young boys were good enough but always remember we won the Tiger Cup with a very young squad. (Khairul) Amri was 19? Shahril (Ishak) was 20? We sometimes fail to realise we can do miracles with a young squad,” Alam Shah remarked.
“We have to give them a chance from young because if you look at my Komoco colleague Fabian (Kwok). He should be involved in the national team but when he was rising as a young player, the coaches didn’t have the balls to put his generation of players in and that generation is now gone.
“You must allow the young ones to get game time and let the senior boys feel insecure so that they will maintain their levels. This can only be good for the national team.”
Alam Shah and Fandi’s first acid test will come on Friday when Singapore entertain Mauritius in an international friendly at the Bishan Stadium. The Lions will then take on Fiji at the same venue four days later.