GEORGE TOWN: Penang coach K. Devan has yet to officially begin his tenure with the newly-promoted Premier League side. But he has already been bowled over by the Penang supporters’ passion for their state football team.
Devan, who only starts work on Monday, is getting numerous “good luck” wishes from supporters wherever he goes in the state.
The coach was surprised to see more than 1,500 supporters turn out to greet him when he had a first look at the Penang team during a friendly against FAM League debutants Sungai Ara FC at the latter’s training ground last Saturday.
“I was surprised to see so many fans turn out to watch a pre-season friendly between two local sides. I feel that I made the right move because the football scene here is unique and lively,” said the former Negri Sembilan, Selangor and Felda United coach.
“I was also attracted by the professionalism of the current team management. They are passionate about improving Penang football. Once the Penang team do well, more fans will back the squad and the football culture will prosper.”
Penang’s football fortunes, on a downward spiral for the past decade, received a major boost when they won the FAM Cup League this year to earn promotion to the second-tier Premier League.
Devan knows that he has big boots to fill as he replaces the legendary Merzagua Abderrazak.
Merzagua, arguably the best player to don a Penang jersey, led the islanders to the FAM Cup title in his first and only season in charge. But the Moroccan had to leave after being unable to prove that he possesses an A-level coaching licence.
Devan, who signed a two-year contract with the Football Association of Penang (FAP) last week, has been given the target of qualifying for the Malaysia Cup.
“A top four finish in the Premier League to qualify for the Malaysia Cup is a realistic target as this is just Penang’s first season back in the second division. The quality of the Premier League next year will be very high and I expect the likes of Negri Sembilan, Police, Kedah and Felda United to be our strongest challengers,” said Devan.
Besides retaining 12 players from last season, Penang have signed on Hariri Safii and Liew Han Hung (both from Kedah), Khairul Amri Salehuddin and Rafiuddin Roddin (both Perak), G. Mahathevan (T-Team) and Mohd Zamri Chin (Sime Darby FC), with more signings expected in the coming weeks.
Striker Pierre Boya from Cameroon, who last featured for Randers FC in the Danish Superliga, is expected to arrive for trials soon. The Panthers are also eyeing a South Korean midfielder and a defender from Ghana to fill their import quota.
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