Kelantan’s new head coach George Boateng may not have much coaching experience, but Stanley Bernard is certain that he can lead the Red Warriors to success.
It is fair to say that Kelantan have not had the best of their seasons this year. Although they are in the Malaysian FA Cup semi-final, the team are sitting seventh in the league, eight points behind current league leaders Pahang.
A lot have changed especially since the likes of Indra Putra, Norshahrul Idlan, Norfarhan Mohamad and Nurul Azwan Roya left the team for greener pastures along with Bojan Hodak, the current JDT boss who guided the Red Warriors to the domestic treble in 2012. So, it's no surprise that they are struggling.
In an attempt to salvage their league season, the Kelantan management has decided to part ways with Liverpool-born Steve Darby and rope in George Boateng as the new head coach.
Yes, the former Dutch international is back on the East Coast – he played for T-Team last season before calling time on his illustrious career. After retiring, he juggled his life between Doha and Kuala Lumpur as a football pundit for Al Jazeera and Astro SuperSport, where I had the opportunity to work closely with him.
As the new Kelantan role is Boateng’s first adventure into the coaching side of football after completing his badges, I know some Kelantan fans have been sceptical about his appointment. However, I believe he will not be too daunted by the task. In fact, he will thrive on it.
Having previously captained Middlesbrough and Hull City, he has the leadership qualities very much needed as a head coach, allowing him to understand the demands and requirements, both mentally and physically, needed to handle a football team.
Besides that, he will be able to draw upon valuable experience from his time playing under fantastic managers such as Steve McClaren at Middlesbrough and Louis van Gaal for the Holland national team – two names he often mentioned during our SuperSport recording breaks.
Boateng said McClaren, who coached him at Middlesbrough for four years, was the best manager he worked under due to how the current Derby County gaffer diligently oversaw the training sessions, made his players feel welcome and got the best out of them.
As for van Gaal, who has been heavily linked with the vacant manager position at Manchester United, Boateng often praised how his former national manager always gave young players the chance to play even in the biggest game, and played an important role to Patrick Kluivert, Edwin van der Sar and the De Boer twins.
I will not be surprised if Boateng has shades of McClaren or van Gaal in his coaching style.
Lastly, it is always important for foreigners coaching in Malaysia to understand the mentality and culture of Malaysian teams if they ever want to succeed. In Boateng’s case, I believe he has got that covered too thanks to his time at T-Team. Although it was just a short stint, he has picked up the local languages in bits and pieces, adapted really well to the new surroundings, and grown to love the country, people, food and, most importantly, Malaysian football.
Therefore, despite being tasked to emulate the past success and high standards set by former coach Hodak, I firmly believe that Boateng has all the qualities to carve a successful coaching career in Malaysia. I wish him and Kelantan the best of luck.