Rookie coach Aw relishing Protectors hot seat
One of the biggest surprises in the off-season has been Aw's promotion to the Home United hot seat.
Following long-serving South Korean coach Lee Lim-Saeng’s resignation, the club opted to look within their own ranks to appoint the youth coach who led Home’s undefeated Under-21s to the Prime League title last season.
Despite this being Aw’s first-ever season in charge at S.League level, he has been set a lofty target – to win all three trophies (S.League, Singapore Cup and League Cup) on offer.
While this may seem like a tall order, the 39-year-old believes his team has what it takes to achieve the seemingly impossible dream.
“At Home United, we aim big and firmly believe in the team,” he told FourFourTwo after the club’s season launch at Raintr33 Hotel on Tuesday evening.
“Our biggest rivals [this season] are ourselves. Including the 21 first-team players, the reserves, myself and the technical team, there are a total of about 40 people. 40 different minds working together – is that easy?
“But if we work hard together and play an exciting brand of football, there’s no need to fear anyone and we can definitely challenge for honours.”
Aw readily admitted that it had his appointment had initially come as a shock, but he has since grown into the job.
“When I first of heard of the news, I was taken aback,” admitted Aw, who also played for Home for four seasons from 1999 to 2002.
“But after many days in training, spending time with players and with support from the backroom staff, the pressure has slowly filtered off. To be honest, I’m loving the job right now.
“I’m a young coach thus I may not have big-game experience. However I’m well-prepared in the sense that I came up all the way in the youth system, thus I know the principles and foundation.
“I’m grateful that the management has given me this job and I take this as an opportunity to learn on the job in terms of being a better coach. I’ve been at this club for a long time and I want to see this club going back to where it belongs.”
In line with the club’s vision of developing youths, 40% of the Protectors’ S.League squad are aged 25 and below – including three youngsters who have been promoted from the much-heralded Prime League-winning side, namely goalkeeper Eko Pradana Putra, Sufianto Salleh and top scorer Nur Hizami Salim.
Aw, a firm advocate for youth development, believes he will be able to strike a balance between chasing honours and blooding in youngsters at the same time.
“It’s about finding the right mixture,” he said.
“Of course I’m not going to put in all 11 young players, but with good experienced young players like captain (Noh Rahman) and (new Danish signing) Ken Ilso (Larsen), what’s wrong with blooding in one or two at the right time?
“I’m a Liverpool fan so I’ve to quote the example of Raheem Sterling. He was given a chance to play with the seniors thus he came to prominence at the age of just 17. If we find young players doing well in training, why not give them a shot at glory?”
The Protectors will kickoff their 2015 S.League campaign away against Geylang International on Tuesday, 3 March 2015.