This report appeared in today’s edition of TODAY:
Avramovic sharpens his axe (TODAY, 20 Jan 2009)
By Shamir Osman
RADOJKO Avramovic is not a happy man.
After Singapore’s 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Iran last Wednesday in their opening Group E2011 Asian Cup qualifier, it is no surprise that the Serb tactician is livid.
Avramovic has had five hugely-successful years, leading Singapore to two Asean Championships and an appearance in the third round of the Asian Zone World Cup qualifiers last year, and he is clearly not willing to settle for what he described as an “irresponsible” performance from his charges.
Judging by the 59-year-old’s words following last week’s spanking, heads will soon roll. “Ismail Yunos’ red card seemed like an excuse, a reason to lose the game,” said an angry Avramovic after a training session on Sunday.
“They didn’t want to play as a team. It looked like nobody wanted to put in the extra effort that is necessary when you play with 10 men. That is just wrong.”
The Lions were doing well, restricting the Iranians to shots from distance for39 minutes until right-back Ismail received his marching orders.
Three minutes later, they conceded their first goal.
Iran made it 3-0 within 10 minutes of the restart, and netted their last three goals in a space of five minutes towards the end of the match.
Said Avramovic: “Some players don’t feel responsible for the team, that was clear. When we were in possession, nobody wanted the ball. You will only concede three goals in five minutes if you play without responsibility.”
Singapore host Jordan at the National Stadium next Wednesday in their second Group E encounter.
It appears some players may have played themselves out of a spot in Avramovic’s current squad as the Serb gets set to promote players from the Young Lions.
Defender Afiq Yunos and midfielder Hariss Harun have already received senior call-ups, while attackers Khairul Nizam and Gabriel Quak are waiting in the wings.
Avramovic did not want to name any player who was in danger of being dropped, but skipper Indra Sahdan has been in a slump for a while now, while John Wilkinson has been a shadow of his former self out in wide-left midfield. And one wonders just how much more Aleksandar Duric can push his 38-year-old body, despite being in great shape.
“I can see how (Avramovic) is angry with our performance,” said Indra yesterday.
“But if he were to drop players just based on workrate and effort, I wouldn’t agree with that because player quality is important.”
Added Wilkinson: “I don’t know if any other players can come into the squad and do better.”
But Avramovic’s message has been heard loud and clear, according to defender Daniel Bennett. “There is good team spirit here, and if anyone goes against that, it is clear that he won’t be in the team,” he said.
I am glad to see that national coach Raddy Avramovic livid and threatening to wield the axe against the under-performing players in his squad.
It’s about time.
And I can only hope he really lives up to his word by the time Singapore takes on Jordan next week.
Because it’s just inexplicable how the Lions just went to pieces after Ismail Yunos – a squad player, not a first-11 member, mind you, was dismissed in the 39th minute.
I got really angry when I read Avramovic’s description of what went wrong for the Lions. Apparently, they didn’t want to play as a team after the red card, he revealed. Also, nobody made the extra effort and some players didn’t feel responsible for the team.
It really looks as though the Lions’ recent successes in the Asean Football Championships and in the World Cup qualifiers have caused some of our players’ heads to swell, and has convinced them that they are indispensible to the first 11.
This growing arrogance has also revealed itself through Indra Sahdan and John Wilkinson’s quotes.
Said Indra: “…if he were to drop players just based on workrate and effort, I wouldn’t agree with that because player quality is important.”
Wikinson added: “I don’t know if any other players can come into the squad and do better.”
Excuse me? Since when is workrate and effort unimportant in a team game like football, Indra?
And by saying that player quality is important, more important than hard work and effort, are you implying that you are a quality player who should not be dropped, while the potential new players that Avramovic has drafted in are not?
Likewise, Wilkinson, are you indicating that the players in the first 11 are too much of a cut above the rest?
What bloody cheek!
In fact, these two quotes are so offensive to me that I find myself becoming increasingly angry as I write this.
So I have to say this to all the under-performing Lions (and you know who you are): Screw you.
If this is the way you have come to regard yourself in the national set-up, then frankly you also don’t deserve to don the Singapore jersey and have the flag on your chest.
Frankly, because of this, I have now reached the stage where I don’t care if Singapore beats or loses to Jordan on Wednesday.
I am now only hoping that Avramovic brings the offending players down to earth and puts them in their proper places. Because we Singapore fans deserve much better than this.
So, here’s wishing not only that there will be new faces in the team next Wednesday, but that these newbies will give a good, hardworking account of themselves full of EFFORT AND DESIRE, and have a good outing, regardless of the final score.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan