Legendary coach implores fans to keep supporting struggling Singapore

During his near decade in charge of Singapore, Radojko Avramovic enjoyed his fair share of tournament success, but after watching the under-23 team bow out of the 2017 SEA Games at the first hurdle he hopes the players aren’t held responsible for the country's latest football failure.

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Singapore fell to early defeats against Myanmar and Malaysia, meaning subsequent victories over Brunei and Laos weren’t enough to take Richard Tardy's men into the semi-finals.

“The players must, if they can, play in the next tournament,” Avramovic told FourFourTwo, agreeing with coach Tardy that results and performances will improve given time and patience.

People think that Myanmar has more naturally gifted players than Singapore, but that is not true

“They need continuity. It will not be good for the players if they are blamed for bad results. Singapore don't need to think about qualifying for World Cups or Asian Cups, they must have continuity.”

Continuity and preparation are keys for the coach, as Avramovic has witnessed with Myanmar, who qualified for the final four alongside hosts Malaysia.

After leaving Singapore, 'Raddy' spent 18 months in charge of the White Angels from 2014-15 and is confident the country has a bright future.

“Myanmar have many players from the under-20 team that went to the World Cup in 2015. They have huge potential and also get great support from the FA president. They have a bright future and have the continuity. They have kept the team together and the players have played together a lot.”

Avramovic denied the notion, however, that Myanmar had better talent than the Young Lions.

“People think that Myanmar has more naturally gifted players than Singapore, but that is not true. It is a question of how you guide them, how you build a team,” he said.

“In Singapore, we had great co-operation with the clubs. I always had good communication with them and the players I selected. This is very important.”

Avramovic is not sure what has gone wrong in Singapore after his 2012 departure.

They have been playing together for two years ... if they can't make a decent team then there is something wrong

At that time, the team had just won the AFF Suzuki Cup, his third triumph in charge. Since then, the national team has exited the regional competition at the group stage both times.

“Maybe there has been a break in continuity after 2012 in terms of build-up and preparing players for the national team. The SEA Games are important.

“In the end, this is the base where you build the national team but in Singapore, they see players who are 21 or 22 as young players, but they are not young. They should be national team players.”

All but five of the 20-man squad named for Malaysia play for the Young Lions in the S.League, a developmental team, and that should have been the right preparation according to the Serbian.

“They have been playing together for two years so there must be some mistakes there,” said Avramovic. “If they can't make a decent team then there is something wrong.

“FAS (Football Association of Singapore) provides all the facilities they need and they get lots of help. So there is something wrong with the selection or the way of working.

Myanmar beat Singapore 2-0 in this year's tournament

“There was time to prepare, two years is enough. There are talented players there. They should analyse all this and find out what happened.”

Despite the failure in Malaysia, Avramovic, now 67, wants the Young Lions to continue in the S.League despite their continued poor results. This season, the team sits last with no wins from 13 games.

“The S.League and FAS have good people who know what they want. We had a similar situation with the Young Lions. In 2003, they were very bad and last in the league. We took over the team and then finished third. Ten players from there went to the national team and we won the Tiger Cup.

“Not many teams can win three times. The players trusted me. And we came out as winners. We had the mentality and that is important. We had good players who trusted each other.”

Looking at the teams still competing in Malaysia, three of them in particular have impressed Avramovic.

“The host always have a chance and Malaysia are looking good. I think it is between Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam and they all can win.”

Standards in the region are improving but this is something Singapore should welcome.

“It could be that other teams are getting stronger, but then why are Singapore not getting stronger? Myanmar are getting stronger, but why are Singapore not?

“This should be good for Singapore. When you have the opportunity to play better teams, then you get better. This should be a good situation. Don't be afraid to play against strong teams.”

Fans need to stay strong too, Avramovic added.

“People must understand that they have to support the team through good times and bad.

“Sometimes results don't go your way but you have to support your team when it enters the field. Singapore have been through tough times before and will come back.”