JOHOR BARU: The “thirsting players” of last year are gone from Malaysia Cup champions Selangor. And coach Ken Worden is gambling on an experimental side as he bids to take the Red Giants to their 30th Malaysia Cup title this year.
Worden, the man they call the Showmaster, took Selangor to their Cup last year, beating his former team Sabah in the final.
But as he starts a new season with a crucial match – the Charity Shield – against FA Cup champions Penang, he can only hope to be “as positive as we can.”
The Australian, who has four Malaysia Cup finals and one semi-final behind him, said: “The present team is void of thirsting players of last year.” He was referring to the mass exodus of key players at the end of last season plus the long-term injury to Malaysia Cup hero Mohamed Amri Yahyah following a motorcycle accident.
Among the big names who have left Selangor are skipper Yusri Che Lah, Tengku Hazman Raja Hassan, Azman Adnan, B. Rajanikandh, Mohamed Aiman Wong, Azlisham Ibrahim and Lim Chan Yew.
“All in all, we have lost nine players. We will go out as positive as we can on Sunday. But I must admit the present team is going to take a lot of time to mould.
“The youngsters, the newcomers, have to go through the mill. We’ve got to see if they have the mettle. This will be seen against a seasoned team like Penang which has been further strengthened by their management ... unlike us.
“There doesn't seem to be any star coming through the Selangor ranks. Most of those who have made the team this year were second stringers last year while one is from the third division.”
Worden nevertheless is not giving up hope on his new team nor is he feeling jittery about the stuff he has.
“I cannot change things overnight. I can only organise, push them and hope they respond. I see the players are in good spirits and they know what is at stake,” added Worden, who was sacked by Sabah in mid-season last year before joining Selangor.
“But I must say you need stability. They (the players) will only be ready when they are ready. We can only do what we can do.”
Worden's skipper and goalkeeper Azmin Azram Abdul Aziz is also looking at a “very, very tough encounter” tomorrow.
He said the match will be a test of nerves for the rookies.
The national number one wants to take off from where he left off at the end of last season when he played a sterling role in helping Selangor win the Malaysia Cup for a record 29th time, beating Sabah 1-0 in the final.
And he would like to start this season the way he did last year. Then, he helped Selangor come from behind for a 2-1 win over Terengganu in the Charity Shield match in Kuala Terengganu.
Selangor will be playing away from home again. And Azmin is hoping for another great start.
“I hope we will be able to emulate a similar result in Penang.
“But from the look of things, I see a very, very tough battle in store for us. Look at our team and more than half of them are new faces,” said Azmin.