Kota Kinabalu: The State senior football team will have to make the best of their preseason preparation as the Sabah FA would not be granting the squad a second travel stint before the season kick-off on January 29.
Sabah head coach and manager Gary Phillips (pic) said despite the disappointing news, he will try to make the best of the situation by arranging friendly matches against the best possible opposition available.
“It appears we won’t have the opportunity to travel for competitive matches like we did to Singapore recently.
“The Sabah FA has ruled out the possibility of a similar arrangement so we just have to make the best of the situation.
“There won’t be very many teams that we can play against to provide the kind of challenge that we will face in the Super League, but arrangements are being made for us to get started on the preseason fixtures immediately,” he said.
Gary told Express Sports this when contacted after the team’s friendly match against the State youth team here, yesterday.
The senior team easily defeated their junior opponents, netting four goals without conceding, but the former Australian national coach insisted his team’s performance was far from convincing. “It could’ve been 20 nil based on the number of scoring chances we had,” said Gary admitting there is still plenty to be done to prepare the team before their season kicks-off against Terengganu on the 29th.
Among his concerns is the thin cover he is left with as the team has been reduced to size no thanks to injuries including to some new signings and key players.
Former Johor FC striker, Sabahan Mohd Safuan Ibrahim will miss the season due to a serious knee injury, while Sabahan and also former Johor FC man, Sumardi Hajalan has aggravated a previous hamstring injury and is likely to miss training for several weeks.
Julamri Muhammad, who was part of last season’s Premier League runner-up squad is also injured with a hamstring problem.
Gary has also lost another player in Gasili Pengalot, who is currently serving a suspension over allegations of against disciplinary regulations.
The player’s case is still being looked into by the FA, and has yet to be resolved.
As it is, Gary now only has 22 players to work with, of which two are registered with the youth team, effectively leaving him with only 17 players, minus his three goalies.
“We will be going up against some strong teams in this league…Kelantan, Selangor, Johor, Felda and Harimau Muda are just a few of them. “And with the little cover we have in the team, any injury problems could spell disaster.
Fitness is key in this situation so that will be something I will be focusing on with the players,” said Gary.
Meanwhile, coach of the junior squad, Justin Ganai said he too will be focusing on fitness with his boys.
“We have a couple of weeks to go before we see real action and fitness is something we need to work on,” he said.
Prior to their 4-0 defeat to the senior team, Justin’s boys also played against UMS and the state prison’s team.
They notched a 2-1 win over UMS before beating the Prison team 3-1.