Jacksen Tiago looks happy and relaxed sipping coffee on Gurney Drive in Penang with the sun shining down and the Andaman sea glistening over his shoulders. He is exactly where he wants to be. The same is true, at last, for Penang FA, with the club now back in the top tier for the first time since 2010.
For the Brazilian coach, it was a major success at the end of his first season in charge and his first outside Indonesia, a country that he knows well. Malaysia has, so far, proven to be great place for Tiago, on the pitch as well as off.
I don't feel pressure myself, but the fans have been waiting for this for too long and now we are here
“Since the very first day, I was sure we could go up,” Tiago told FourFourTwo. “In football, sometimes thing come easy, sometimes you have to work hard to get the result. Penang worked hard.
“The season is decided from the very first day to the last. We had a few bad moments during the season due to internal problems, but we did very well. We got the result and staying one more year here and I am looking forward to the Super League.
“We reached the target.”
In football, as soon as you reach a target there is a new one. Last season is history. The management want a trophy, whether it be the league, the FA Cup or the Malaysia Cup. For Tiago, this seems a little optimistic. “My target is fourth and maybe get in one final. It is not impossible.”
It would be impressive, but there has been cash spent on new players. For one Lee Gil-hoon, the talented South Korean, is out.
“Lee is an amazing player: two footed, good at heading, he can do everything but he played for himself, not for the group,” Tiago explains candidly.
The hope is that the new signings – Brett Griffiths from Australia, Marias Jesus Cordoba from Argentina and Brazilian striker Jose Tadeu Mauro – will be different.
“We tried to bring players who can be more influential in the team overall and have more leadership. It's too early to see if Matias, Griff and Tudea can do that but they have the character to do so.
“I like a positive game with a good balance and know how to play when they have the ball and are very aggressive and look to attack.”
Even against the likes of two-time defending MSL champions Johor Darul Ta’zim?
“You can't be defensive for 90 minutes. You will always get the ball and have to know how to attack. We always go to win. Even though Johor are a strong team, they have a weakness, everyone does.”
Whatever happens, it should be an exciting season for fans in Georgetown.
“I don't feel pressure myself, but the fans have been waiting for this for too long and now we are here, they don't want to go back down and that is why they pressure us. They will push us to our limit.
“I am ready for the challenge. We all are.”
Photo courtesy of aseanfootball.org