KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah FA has dropped a bombshell by removing its head coach cum manager Gary Phillips from the State senior side with immediate effect in a bid to save their season in their first-year return to the Malaysian Super League.
Reserve League head coach Justin Ganai has been named as Gary’s successor while the FA Treasurer Hj Shahriman Abdullah appointed as the team manager.
As for the President’s Cup squad, Matasan Ahmad, a FAM Licence B holder, has been promoted and will take over as the head coach and he will be assisted by Burhan Ajui.
Johnny Dominicus has also been retained with the senior team as assistant coach so as goalkeeper coach Khairul Azman Mohd. Juil Nuatim will also remain as the team manager for the State junior side.
The decision was made at the FA’s team management meeting that was chaired by its Vice President I Datuk Osman Jamal late last night.
In fact, the Team Management Committee is headed by the FA Supremo the honourable Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman, but Osman was given the mandate to chair the meeting.
“Tonight (last night) I was given the mandate to chair this meeting because our President could not attend due to another official function.
“Tonight we deliberated and studied all aspects and factors that have contributed to our team’s dismal showing in the league.
“After 16 matches, we are in 13th placing and our Chief Minister views this as critical (current position).
“He doesn’t want to see the team being demoted to the Premier League and has given us the mandate that changes must be made so that we will remain in the Super League,” said Osman.
Vice President II Datuk Yusoff Mohd Kassim, Vice President III Dr KH Tan, Secretary General Alijus Hj Sipil, Assistant Secretary General Hj Nizam Datuk Seri Abu Bakar Titingan, Treasurer Hj Shahriman Abdullah, Reserve League Team Manager Juil Nuatim and Executive Secretary Hasbullah Yahya were also present at the meeting.
Due to that, Osman said the committee sees the need for a change so that it could give a big impact to the squad in the remaining 10 games.
“We cannot make anymore mistakes. We need to really pick the right choice to our first 11 squad. We also need to bring in new belief so that the team will play with more confidence to win at least six out of the 10 remaining matches, which we think will be enough for us to survive this battle.
“The committee also believed that the team has no problem of winning matches and competing against the best as proven against Kedah, who are a good side and full of national players. We have beaten them at home, and drew 1-1 on Tuesday.
In view of that Osman said, the committee has decided to appoint Hj Shahriman as the new team manager and Justin as the head coach.
“We are fully behind him. He has all the experience to lead the team having skippered the State side during his playing days. We have high hopes in him and we also believe we have a winning combination in working alongside him.
“We have also given him the power to play a role in determining the starting 11.
“We thought that if we are to make changes to the team management alone, it would not be enough so that is why we decided to come up with this decision.
“This is a risky decision but we are brave enough to face it as we believe this is the right one as we answer the call made by most of our loyal fans, who are seeking for changes to be made to the team.
“We also believe the changes are timely.
Why Justin, Osman explained that the evergreen former State player has done well with the President’s Cup team and he deserved to be given this chance.
“With him around, we see no reason why he cannot lift and guide our senior side to success.
As for Gary, Osman said his (Gary) initial appointment with the FA was Technical Director of Football, and in view of that, they will not sideline him completely, and instead have appointed him as advisor for both the senior and junior teams.
“So with these changes, we are calling on our fans to turn up in full force when we play Negeri Sembilan at the Likas Stadium on Friday (tomorrow). And we believe we can start winning matches starting with the one against Negeri Sembilan.”
But Osman said one main reason for these changes is they want to fine tune and strengthen the whole aspect of the team.
He added with seven home matches to play and only three away from the 10 remaining games, chances for the team to stay in the top flight action are pretty much high!