Tag Archives: Lee Lim Saeng

Aurelio Vidmar to BG Pathum United? Who Should The Sailors Turn To?

Disclaimer: I do not want Vidmar to leave the Sailors

I stumbled across this article thanks to our pals at Lions Of Asia, and I think it is worth addressing. Yes, this may just be nothing more than the work of some journalists churning material for the rumour mill. However, let’s assume that this is true and entertain this prospect.

After all, it is not an unlikely scenario. Aurelio Vidmar previously coached BG Pathum United between August 2016 and July 2017. After guiding the Rabbits to a 3rd place finish in 2016 and a 5th place finish in 2017, Vidmar left the club and assumed the position as Adelaide United’s Director of Football in 2018.

BG Pathum United have a fantastic squad, arguably one of the best in Southeast Asia and they won’t be pushovers in the upcoming AFC Champions League group stage fixtures. Vidmar has unfinished business with the Thai side, and winning the Thai League 1 title would be a very achievable goal for next season. Vidmar is also a AFC Champions League specialist of sorts. He guided Adelaide United to the 2008 AFC Champions League Final, and he is most likely sought after by BG Pathum to ensure the club progresses far in the competition. Drawn against Viettel, Ulsan Hyundai, and the play-off winner between Shanghai Port and Brisbane Roar or Kaya, BG have a decent chance of progressing.

BG Pathum would therefore be an interesting project for Vidmar to take on, but therein lies another question: what about the ongoing Lion City Sailors project? Why would Vidmar leave the Sailors?

That’s something I cannot really fathom. The Sailors are arguably the most ambitious start-up project in Southeast Asia right now. They have loads of money, appear to have a clear direction (as evident with their aggressive marketing, 10-million-dollar-training centre, and AFC One Star Academy), and most importantly have the best squad (on paper) that Singapore football could potentially offer. Vidmar is given all the tools. So why would he leave?

Or is it a case of him being pushed out? Forrest Li would probably expect instant success with the Sailors, and can you blame the man for wanting it? The Sailors assembled a star-studded line up last season but came in third. This season they doubled up on the star power, bringing in Diego Lopes on a multi-million dollar deal and experienced Jorge Fellipe but also reinforced with a host of local stalwarts. Nur Adam, Amirul Adli, and Faris Ramli were added to a squad that already boasts Gabriel Quak, Shahdan Sulaiman, Adam Swandi, Song Ui-young, Stipe Plazibat, Hassan Sunny, Tajeli Salamat, Hafiz Nor, Aqhari Abdullah, and Saifullah Akbar. Unlike other managers in the league, Vidmar has quality across all positions and, more importantly, quality in depth.

This squad is equipped to compete on all fronts. And I mean ALL fronts. The Sailors theoretically have what it takes to win the AFC Cup this season. Why would Vidmar jump ship? Maybe he’s been forced to walk the plank instead? Perhaps. After all, the Sailors drew 2 games and lost 1 after six games thus far. The Sailors management probably believe that their club should be cruising through their matches.

So let’s assume that Vidmar does leave. Who is the ideal manager that the Sailors need to helm their vessel?

Well, I don’t believe that any one manager should steer this ship. Instead, there are two that could potentially co-manage the Sailors and bring them to greater heights.

The funny thing is, no one has talked about this combination thus far. The Lee Lim-saeng and Kim Do-hoon combination could potentially work at a club like Lion CIty Sailors. You already know how much I admire Lee Lim-saeng. I have mentioned him in a previous article before and I stand by the claim that he is one of the best managers to have ever graced the Singaporean footballing landscape. His track record after his time in Singapore is spectacular too. 3 years in China (Two in the CSL and one in Chinese League One) and 1.5 years with Suwon Samsung Bluewings in the K-League is really remarkable.

Kim Do-hoon may be an unfamiliar name to those who do not follow Korean football. Kim was the Ulsan Hyundai manager that won the 2020 AFC Champions League and the 2017 KFA Cup. Winning the premier Asian continental competition is no easy feat, and he brings a wealth of experience.

So why a Lee and Kim coaching combination? Well for starters, both managers played for the Korean National Team together and even worked together in a coaching capacity before. Lee and Kim have chemistry and both offer something the other needs. Lee brings familiarity of Singaporean football and, crucially, culture to the table. Kim offers the prestige name power that the Sailors seem to be targeting. The football romanticist in me also wishes to see a Lee Homecoming (pun intended) to Singapore.

Crucially Lee and Kim are also currently not tied to any clubs. They are free agents in the market right now.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to see Aurelio pushed out of the Sailors. He is an incredible manager and I think he just needs a tad bit more time. That being said, I do believe that a Kim and Lee combination would work well for the Sailors should Vidmar leave.

Like I said, to reiterate, once again, this is purely based on speculation. I in no way want Vidmar to leave.

Photo Credits: Singapore Premier League


The Rory Winters Story Part 1: The Beginnings

To many in Singapore, Rory Winters is a an unfamiliar name, but his footballing story may be relatable. Rory was part of the English footballing system since he was 7 years old and he played professionally until he was 23 years old. He played semi-professionally since then, and then retired from the game 3 years […]

Our Singapore Premier League Team Of The Week #4

Game Week 4 saw Matchdays 5 and 6 unfold, and what a week indeed! It was goals galore in both matchdays with Tampines slotting 7 past Young Lions and Lion City Sailors racking up 8 goals against Geylang International. In this combined team of the week, we have a pretty diverse line-up from a range […]

Circumventing The K-League ASEAN Quota Conundrum

In 2020, the K-League launched the ASEAN Quota, where K-League clubs were given an extra foreign player spot for players from Southeast Asia. This move was designed to help expand the K-League’s marketability in the ASEAN region, but in the past 2 years, only one club has utilized it. In 2021, K2 club Ansan Greeners […]

Jesse Lingard and the Story of Second Chances

How Jesse Lingard’s rise from the ashes is the feel-good story of the season in the Premier League… We all undoubtedly know who Jesse Lingard is at this point. The English attacking midfielder has seemingly been in the world’s eye for years now, and not necessarily for the right reasons. The kid from Warrington, a […]

One Last Hurrah!: Young Lions Shouldn’t Be Scrapped (Just Yet)

Where do I begin with the Young Lions? The club was formed in 2003 to provide some of the most talented Under-23 footballers with regular professional footballing experience. Besides having the chance to play together on a regular basis and maintaining team cohesion, the Young Lions project provided these players the opportunity to play against senior footballers and national team stalwarts. It was created with the primary goal of helping the national Under-23 team perform well in regional international tournaments like the SEA Games. However, the project has largely been a failure.

Jose Raymond recently wrote an article titled OPINION: Time to scrap the Young Lions, and truth be told, he makes excellent points. The Young Lions have not performed well in the SEA Games. That is in fact an understatement – their showings have been significantly poor. The national under-23 team “has not made the finals of the SEA Games final at all, and have been knocked out at the group stages in 2003, 2005, 2011, 2015, 2017 and 2019.”

I agree mostly with Mr. Raymond, but his article also got me thinking about ways we can salvage the current Young Lions side. Let’s be honest, it seems like that the Young Lions project would most likely continue. The FAS has invested too much in the project to let it go to waste. Instead of scrapping it, how then do we save this sinking ship? How do we materialize the FAS’s vision of the Young Lions becoming a platform for developing elite footballers for Singapore?

We first need to find out what issues exist, and there are two glaring problems that have plagued the club for a long time now – finding the perfect head coach for the club and improving the overall quality of youth players in Singapore. I think improving the quality of youth players in Singapore merits a separate article altogether. The Young Lions have not really had a brilliant coach that specializes in youth development and who also is really familiar with Singaporean football. For some reason, I couldn’t find a complete list of coaches who helmed the project. So I did a bit of archival research work. These are some of the Young Lions coaches:

List of Some Young Lions Coaches
No.Coach Years
1P N Sivaji2003
2Kim Poulsen2004
3Fandi Ahmad2005-2006
4V. Sundramoorthy2007-2010
5Robin Chitrakar2011-2012
6Aide Iskandar 2013-15
7Jürgen Raab2015
8Richard Tardy2016 (caretaker)
9Patrick Hesse2016-2017
10V. Selvaraj2017
11Richard Tardy2017 (caretaker)
12Vincent Subramaniam2017
13Fandi Ahmad2018-2019
14Nazir Nasir2020 – present
If there is any inaccurate information – do let me know

That being said, out of the lot, Fandi Ahmad and Kim Poulsen are arguably the most successful. Under Poulsen and then Fandi, the club finished 3rd in the 2004 and 2006 seasons respectively. These 3rd-place finishes are their highest ever finish to date. Other managers have been less successful, and, more often than not, the Young Lions find themselves at the bottom of the league. So, who would be the right candidate?

Gavin Lee could be a good fit for the Young Lions given his ability to bring the best out of youth players at Tampines Rovers. His youth-centric policy has turned Tampines Rovers into the Singaporean Ajax of sorts. However, just like Ajax, Gavin’s Tampines side has done relatively well because he can successfully blood in exciting prospects around more senior heads. Yet, Gavin has to be given due credit because he believes in developing young players into first-team regulars.

Amirul Adli, Joel Chew, Shah Syahiran, Ryaan Sanizal, and Syahrul Sazali have become significantly better players under his charge. It would be interesting to see the impact he would have on Iman Hakim and Marc Ryan Tan, who are both real wonderkids, this upcoming season. Boris Kopitović and Taufik Suparno are the only senior strikers at Tampines, and Marc would indeed find opportunities aplenty. He featured nine times for Young Lions in the brief 2020 campaign but never played a full 90 minutes before. His two starts (where he was hauled off midway through the second half) and seven substitute appearances add up to 252 minutes of professional play. Likewise, Iman Hakim has been stellar for Albirex, and under Gavin’s tutelage, he is sure to become even better. In any case, while a move to Young Lions might prove to be an exciting project worth undertaking, it would be a step down for Gavin. The man is destined for bigger projects outside of Singapore, and it is only a matter of time before we see him manage in bigger leagues overseas.

One name pops to mind – Lee Lim Saeng. The former Home United head coach is a revered figure in the local footballing landscape. He won the Singapore Cup with the Protectors and guided them to two runner-up positions during his 4-year spell with the club. The Korean has gone on to achieve spectacular feats since leaving Singapore’s shores. After leaving Home United in 2014, Lee went on to the Chinese Super League where he held head or assistant coaching positions at Shenzhen FC, Yanbian Funde, and Tianjin Teda between 2013 and 2018. Between 2018 and 2019, Lee was appointed as the Korean FA (KFA) technical director for the national Under-20 team. Suwon Samsung Bluewings swooped in for Lee in 2019, and he won the Korean FA Cup with them. He departed Suwon in 2020 and is currently engaging in an ad-hoc consultant role with the Korean FA.

The obvious question would then be why would someone like Lee be interested in the Young Lions project. That is an excellent question to ask. Given his current role as KFA consultant, it would appear that Lee is interested in the prospect of national team management. The Young Lions job would traditionally entail managing the national under-23 side for international fixtures and competitions. It would be interesting if Lee took up the Young Lions job and the national under-23 team position. Many local players that have had a chance to work under Lee know the impact he has on a team and how he can transform a player.

Some fans might be doubtful as to whether a new coach might help or not. Instead, they might argue that scrapping the Young Lions is the way forward in ensuring that each club is incentivised to train its youth players. Here’s the thing though, do each club truly have the facilities for youth development? I don’t believe so. Furthermore, there isn’t any club that is ready to join or return to the Singapore Premier League. While there are rumours that Warriors FC might rejoin this campaign, nothing has materialised thus far. There have been even talks that Albirex Niigata might have to sit out because of their inability to fill up their squad with players. If no team rejoins and Albirex pulls out, there will be only eight teams remaining in the league (7 if Brunei chooses to pull out). In such a scenario, perhaps it is impractical to scrap the Young Lions.

Nevertheless, the FAS should bring Lee into their set up – preferably as the Young Lions and National U-23 Head coach. The FAS needs to consistently update and improve their plans to develop Singapore football. With Lee’s current role in the KFA, his experience coaching in top-flight football across East Asia, and his familiarity with Singapore, he would become an important asset. I say give someone like Lee 3 years at Young Lions. Time is a crucial factor because it allows Lee to implement the changes he wishes to make. At the end of the three years, if nothing significant changes, then I guess the Young Lions should be permanently ended. Let’s give the project one last opportunity to yield some results.

Featured Photo Credits: Ko Po Hui (@bolasepako)

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