New Malaysia national coach Tan Cheng Hoe says he’s prepared for “anything and everything” as he tries to turn around a team who haven’t won a match in more than a year.
The Harimau Malaya have endured a miserable 2017, with former Saudi Arabia boss Nelo Vingada quitting after only half a year following six defeats in seven games in charge.
Former assistant Tan steps up to fill the void after his appointment last week, with Malaysia’s FIFA world ranking at a record low of 174th.
FAM boss Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim (TMJ), who handpicked Vingada, has abandoned his foreign-coach policy to go for ex-Kedah boss Tan.
“It is indeed an honour for me that Tunku Ismail has shown faith and given me the freedom to choose players to represent the country,” Tan told The New Straits Times.
“The criticisms all depend on the media and the fans, if they want to be positive or not. But when I accepted this post, I knew that I will have to face anything and everything that comes my way, be it good or bad.”
Tan worked closely as an assistant to ex-national coach K. Rajagobal, who guided Malaysia to glory at the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, having won the 2009 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medal for men’s football.
He is also friends with under-23 head coach Ong Kim Swee — the latter held the top position between 2015 and 2017 — who will take Malaysia’s rising stars to next month’s AFC U23 Championship in China.
With the Asian Cup qualifying hopes of the senior team extinguished, Tan is expected to lead the Malaysians at next November’s 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.
“As coach, I need to work very hard to ensure that I lead the team to a higher level,” Tan said.
“The main reason for me to lead the national team is to take the team to new, greater heights compared to previously.
“For now there are no plans yet for the national team because it is still early on and the Malaysian League has not even begun yet. But I am in the midst of formulating and finalising my plans for next year which are hopefully what’s best needed for the national team.”
Malaysia’s next competitive international is against Lebanon in Beirut on Mar. 29.
Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK