National soccer coach, K. Rajagobal, is one who always has his head in place and feet firm on the ground.
Despite two commendable performances and respectable scorelines in their losses to Manchester United (3-2 in the first match on Saturday and 2-0 last night), he was not about to gloat over it.
Even with some quarters even predicting a Sea Games gold in Laos at the end of the year, Rajagobal was not about to join in the bandwagon to sign praises.
Having been involved in Malaysian soccer all his life, the 52-year-old coach, only knows too well not to jump in joy over a couple of reasonably good performances.
Besides, he also know that all the heaps of praises which has been coming his way the last three days, could well all turn out to be his nightmare, as the same people who have been singing the praises, could well be the very ones who will be the first to criticize him.
It is not that Rajagobal is running away from his responsibilities or is playing safe, but he is merely calling the spade a spade.
Make no mistake. It is not that he has no confidence with his team. In fact, he has tremendous faith in his team. All he is asking is for time for the team to mature.
"It is without doubt that the team did well in the two matches against MU. We lost with respectable scores and above all, the team show tremendous fighting qualities and gave everything they had," said Rajagobal the former national right winger who had capped 15 times for the nation.
"But we cannot get carried away with two performances. It is just the beginning. What I want is consistency and to get better with each match. There were still many areas of weakness in the team," added Rajagobal who featured for the Selangor team from 1979 to 1984 and the national team from 1980 to 1982.
"One glaring flaw in the team is our finishing. Although Amir Yahya had did well in the first match against MU to score two goals, there were many opportunities which went a begging from our strikers. Our defence too needs some tightening up.
"And that clinical finishing and character only can come from experience. That is why it is important that the team continue to play more top quality matches," said who made his debut coaching the national team as the assistant coach to Ken Worden at the 1993 Merdeka tournament.
Last night's performance may have been a little below par as compared to Saturday's. But three key factors could have be contributing factors.
Firstly, Malaysia was not expected to play the second match and Rajagobal, surely must have had a tough time re-motivating the players. Secondly, to play two highly competitive matches in three days, was certainly taxing on the players. Thirdly, utmost on the players' minds would have been their League matches which resumed day - where they earn their bread butter.
All things considered, the players still should be given a pat on the back.
NOVELTY HAS WORN OFF......Notice the empty seats where only about 35,000 fans turned up last night as compared to 80,000, for the first match on Saturday.
Pictures by Melody Marie A
Pictures by Melody Marie A
MU's Sir Alex Ferguson echoed Rajagobal's sentiment of the Malaysian team when he said: "This team certainly has more speed and enthusiasm from the previous team we met.
"But the team needs to improve on their finishing. They failed to finish off many opportunities they created," said Ferguson.
"They need more time and exposure. They certainly have the potential."
Rajagobal added that he will continue to lookout to strengthen his team, for he believes that there are players out there who couldearn national call-ups.
"But I have the core of the team right now and will be on the lookout for a few more players to strengthen the weak areas, " said Rajagobal.
Rajagobal said that his immediate target is the Laos Sea Games.
"Our first target in the Sea Games will be to make the second round. Then, we will take from there because it is knockout stages from then on. Anything can happen in this round. Besides, we cannot overnight write off teams like Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, who will certainly start as favourites. We will aslo have to look at the draw and see who are the teams placed in our Group," said Rajagobal.
"Afterall, we last won the Sea Games in 1989 in Kuala Lumpur - 20 years ago. We cannot change things instantly. I took the team only a few months ago. But I have many players who have worked with me for sometime now. That is certainly an added advantage. But still time is the essence.
"I certainly can do with more quality time with the team. But the players have their committment with their teams in the M-League.
"I will certainly be calling them up for training at every opportunity I get and also to play quality matches."
Rajagobal pleaded to administratrors, fans and critics alike, to give his team for the time to grow.
"Remember it took at least two years for the Harimau Muda to mature and play they way they are now. We have to learn to walk, before we can run. There is plenty of room for them to grow."
Indeed, everything needs time, patience, dedicated work, discipline and the right spirit and support from all quarters, for it to mature.
One cannot expect to start today, and expect results yesterday!
Good work Rajagobal, but continue to keep your feet firmly imbedded on the ground, for you know best!