Interviews

Iain Ramsay, One-on-one: Felda's Filipino hotshot setting the MPL alight as Asian Cup history beckons

Philippines international Iain Ramsay revived his career with Ceres Negros in 2017 before rejecting an offer from Thailand to sign with Felda United. He shares with FourFourTwo why the Fighters were appealing and his unfinished business with the Azkals...

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Ramsay, who is of Scottish and Filipino descent,  was at a crossroads just over a year ago having seen his move from the A-League to Iranian club Tractor Sazi not go the way he had hoped.

A move to Ceres – his first Filipino club despite already representing the nation – put the winger’s career back on track as the Busmen won the inaugural Philippines Football League (PFL) and made the region take note of them in the AFC Cup.

There was one Thai club I thought I was heading to, but Felda came in and I knew about them after we met in the AFC Cup

- Ramsay

The former Adelaide United and Melbourne City player was a key figure as Ceres defeated perennial Malaysia Super League (MSL) winners Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) en route to becoming AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal champions. They were then knocked out by Istiklol in the Inter-zone semi-final.

Ramsay, who saw the club as a stop-gap measure, became a fan favourite and gave them a parting gift they’ll never forget, scoring a hattrick against Global Cebu to seal the PFL title.

“I didn’t intend to stay at Ceres for a long time. I’ve always wanted to push myself,” Ramsay told FourFourTwo.

“I mean no disrespect to Ceres. I loved my time there and worked well with the coach, Risto Vidakovic, who I think has abilities to be a very good coach at a high level.

“But with the leagues in Thailand and Malaysia opening up a slot for ASEAN players, I wanted to make a jump.

“There was one Thai club I thought I was heading to, but Felda came in and I knew about them after we met in the AFC Cup. I knew about the coach and they’ve kept many players from last season, which is good to see. It shows they believe in building a team.

The Fighters were unhappy with the demotion but have since come to terms with it, making it a mission to win the second tier competition

“I took it seriously when they came in for me, It wasn’t just about the football … I have a family and Malaysia is a lovely country to live in.”

Ramsay admits it was disappointing to find out that Felda were demoted to the Malaysia Premier League (MPL) for matters off the pitch, after they failed to obtain a club licence, a mandatory requirement starting in 2018.

The Fighters were unhappy with the demotion but have since come to terms with it, making it a mission to win the second tier competition, complete their license and make a big return to the MSL.

If recent form is anything to go by, Felda look set to waltz their way to the MPL title. B. Satiananthan’s men have a 100 per cent record in the opening four matches, scoring 15 goals in the process.

“It’s been enjoyable so far. Everyone has been very welcoming and it really helps that the team is winning,” said the 30-year-old midfielder.

Ramsay has a lot of respect for Satiananthan

“We’ve got a lot of depth in our squad. It’s early days but the good start gives us confidence. I hope this momentum can take us through the league and also go a long way in the FA Cup and Malaysia Cup. We want to make improvements and to show that we mean business too.”

Led by influential skipper Shukor Adan, the Fighters have a talented squad with the likes of Wan Zack Haikal Wan Noor, Hadin Azman, Thiago Fernandes, GIlberto Fortunato and Christie Jayaseelan in their ranks.

In Satiananthan, they have a former Malaysia coach and one of the most experienced mentors around.

Ramsay admits Satiananthan demands a lot of discipline from the players, but he insisted he has nothing but admiration for his gaffer.

[NEXT: Ramsay and the Azkals within reach of history]