PENANG Under-21 head coach S. Veloo is keen to continue his team-building efforts after guiding the Panther cubs to the 2015 President’s Cup football final.
Penang lost 2-1 to Kelantan in the final played at the City Stadium on Friday but earned plaudits for qualifying for their first final in 11 years.
Veloo was appointed head coach on a one-year contract earlier this year after returning from his studies in Britain.
While in Europe, the former Penang senior team and USM FC coach worked with former English Premier League champions Blackburn Rovers.
“I sincerely hope the FAP (Football Association of Penang) will retain my services for next year.
“This is my first time coaching a President’s Cup team and I truly enjoyed the experience.
“If they (FAP) want me to stay on with the Under-21 team, I will happily do so,” he said.
Veloo was aided by assistants Zabidi Hassan, Hisham Jainuddin and Mohd Faizal Sultan in this year’s President’s Cup campaign.
Despite the failure to get their hands on the President’s Cup trophy, the chief coach is proud of his players.
They had initially set a target of finishing in the top four of their group to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Despite not being one of the pre-tournament favourites, Penang defied the odds by beating fancied teams Sime Darby (1-0 on aggregate) in the quarter-finals and Police (2-1 on aggregate) in the semi-finals.
“When we started off, there were only four players from last year’s Under-21 squad. The rest were new players,” said Veloo.
“After meeting our target of reaching the quarter-finals, the pressure was off and the players were able to perform to their true abilities.
“There is great potential in this young squad and 20 players will still be eligible for next year’s challenge.”
Only the inexperience of handling the pressure of playing in a final contributed to Penang’s downfall against Kelantan.
Watched by more than 5,000 home supporters, Penang were the more dangerous side.
But the inability to convert a handful of scoring chances proved costly.
Kelantan won through goals by Fakhrul Zaman (38th minute) and Mohammad Azwan (66th) while Amirul Syazni netted Penang’s solitary reply in the 50th minute.
“Inexperience made a difference. Penang were making their first appearance in the President’s Cup final after 11 years while Kelantan were in their third final in five years,” said Veloo.
“We tried our best and created lots of chances but poor finishing was our weakness.
“Kelantan started slowly but peaked at the right time to score their goals.
“Penang’s best players like Faisal Halim and Ikhmal Ibrahim were not performing at their best in the final.
“Faisal is only 17 and has a great future in football. With these youngsters around, I am confident that Penang will only get better for next year’s President’s Cup challenge.”
Since the President’s Cup competition began in 1985, Penang have been champions only once, in 2004.
Following their triumph last week, Kelantan hold the record for most triumphs — winning the title six times in 1985, 1995, 2005, 2011, 2013 and this year.