PETALING JAYA: Pahang leftback R. Dinesh hopes his loyalty and patience will finally hit pay dirt in this year’s M-League season.
The Elephants have axed a number of their key players for the new season but have opted to retain the promising 21-year-old as they are aiming to rebuild the squad.
Dinesh, who joined the East Coast side in 2016 at 18, made only 23 appearances in the last four years.
But the Kuala Lumpur-born Dinesh proved his mettle with the national team at the 2019 AFC Under-23 championship qualifiers by being the standout performer and ended up earmarked for the future by Pahang coach Dollah Salleh.
The decision to release 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup winner Zubir Azmi now leaves Dinesh to jostle for the leftback spot with regular Faisal Rosli.
“Last year, I did well with the national team in the AFC Under-23 qualifiers but I was below par at the SEA Games in the Philippines... it was a wake-up call for me, ” said the tenacious defender.
“I’m more determined to improve and the club’s decision to retain me shows that they have confidence in my abilities.
“Faisal, obviously, is more experienced compared to me but I’m younger.
We bring different qualities to the team and it’s up to the coach to pick the player who best suits his game plans.
“I like to help with the attacking, I’ve the speed advantage. I hope these qualities will give me an edge to make the squad.”
Dinesh made his name with the national Under-16 team when they reached the AFC Under-16 championship quarter-finals in 2014 but his career seemed to have stagnated since then without much of a role to play in the M-League.
“I know everyone has high expectations of that Under-16 team but unfortunately, things didn’t work out and we had gone separate ways, ” said Dinesh.
“It’s not easy to make the transition from youth to senior level, it takes time and at the same time, I don’t think it’s right to write off players like me.
“I’ll be turning 22 next month and I believe there’s still time for players like me from that Under-16 team to make the grade.
“I’ve not given up and will fight harder to reach my real potential.”
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