Coach Profile: Zainal Abidin Hassan, Selangor

Following an influx of quality signings, new Selangor coach Zainal Abidin Hassan tells Vijhay Vick that he will rotate the squad to keep the players fresh and happy.

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The lack of depth at the Red Giants was a statement the press got used to during Mehmet Durakovic’s two-year stint, which ended unceremoniously despite guiding Selangor to a record 33rd Malaysia Cup in 2015.

There is no added pressure to deliver because of the coaching change

- Zainal

The likes of Shahrom Kalam, Nazmi Faiz, Azrif Nasrulhaq and Ahmad Hazwan Bakri soldiered on as Selangor lacked replacements capable of making the same impact.

That is a thing of the past as Selangor have splurged to bring in Zainal and his trusted lieutenants at Pahang – Khairul Azhan Khalid, Razman Roslan, Hafiz Kamal and R. Gopinathan.

Herein lies one problem (one that every team would love to have nevertheless) and it is deciding upon a starting 11.

Will custodian Norazlan Razali be dropped for Khairul Azhan? Would Razman replace skipper Shahrom Kalam? Or would aspiring forward Ahmad Hazwan Bakri get as many matches as he did last year?

Zainal feels those questions are not crucial and says he has worked out a formula to keep everyone happy.

“I will be rotating my players. I have more capable players in all positions now … some could play in a couple of positions too,” Zainal told FourFourTwo.

“If everyone maintains their performance levels then everyone will get game time. If the players want to be happy, they simply have to perform and fight for a place.

“There are no free rides because of names. I’m still finding the right tactics with the players we have. Previously, Pahang was a fast, attacking team but that may not necessarily be the case here. I’m observing in training and need to find the right balance.”

Zainal dismissed suggestions the pressure was on him to deliver success, especially considering the public outcry after Selangor decided to part ways with Durakovic.

Like Durakovic, Zainal’s return is akin to a homecoming. Zainal started and ended his career at Selangor. Pahang was the only other team Zainal appeared for during his playing career.

“My expectations are simple. I need to stabilise the team after the changes were made and I believe the results will come … we have the players for that,” said Zainal.

“There is no added pressure to deliver because of the circumstances of the coaching change or the players we have signed. This is Selangor and with or without a good team, success is always expected. So there’s no point talking about the target set on my team. It is trophies, always has been.”

Zainal is no stranger to winning trophies too. He was part of the backroom staff when Pahang won the Malaysia Cup in 2013 and defended the trophy as head coach the following year. Pahang also won the 2014 FA Cup.

Photo: Selangor FA