Friday, December 16, 2011

Sabah hope Aussie duo will give them an edge

New Straits Times Online

SABAH coach Justin Ganai admits to humming Men At Work's Down Under more often than not these days.

   This is because he now has Australian duo Brandon Gan and Micheal Baird in his squad and the team are looking stronger than ever ahead of the Super League season starting on Jan 10.

   Both Gan and Baird are former A-League Premiership players with Sydney FC and Central Coast Mariners respectively, and the coach feels the duo may just be the edge Sabah need to start winning trophies.  Gan, 23, whose last club was Bonnyrigg White Eagles, is an influential midfielder who was once crowned New South Wales Premier League Player of the Year while Baird, 28, who used to play for Perth Glory, is a formidable striker.

    Justin said that with the return of defender Ronnie Harun from Terengganu and striker Bobby Gonzales from Sarawak, Sabah are looking good to challenge for honours in all competitions in the new season.

    "The FA Cup looks a possibility as we are drawn to play Sime Darby in the opening round and should we win, we then play either Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) or Pos Malaysia in the second round," said Justin.

    "The only drawback is we have to play our first game away and everybody knows that we are much more formidable when playing at Likas Stadium."

  But the coach, who is happy with the FA Cup draw, said that if his team hope to win trophies, they must start winning matches away from home.

  "We are lucky not to have been drawn against the top teams in the early rounds although we will not be underestimating any of our opponents," he added.

 "Last season we bowed out of the FA Cup in the first round but later managed to qualify for the Malaysia Cup. This time round, we aim to at least make the quarter-finals."  Justin said three players -- Hariri Safii, Farid Ideris and Stanley Bernard -- have left the team but defender Azlan Mat Isa, who played for USM last season, is now a Sabah player.

    "We have been working hard to improve our physical fitness but we do lack competitive matches since we began training early last month," the coach said.

    "All our friendly matches against teams from west Malaysia had to be cancelled as air tickets for the whole team are not easy to get this time of the year."

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