Quak credits Kadir's 'wake-up call' for improvement in form

Rejuvenated LionsXII winger Gabriel Quak believes that former coach Kadir Yahaya's timely advice has inspired him to better performances this season.

The LionsXII’s struggles last season were well-documented, having failed to string together successive wins all year and finishing just four points above the relegation zone.

Towards the end of the season, the crowds at the Jalan Besar Stadium had dwindled and there were a fair amount of criticism directed at certain players including Quak, who was often accused of not having a final product.

Fast forward a few months later and things are looking rosier for the team ­- having secured back-to-back wins against Sarawak FA and Sime Darby which leaves them just four points adrift of the top half.

Quak has also emerged as an integral part of Fandi Ahmad’s puzzle, with his four goals in all competitions making him the team’s joint-top goalscorer alongside Khairul Amri.

That feat has eclipsed his total tally of two throughout his LionsXII career. He has also two assists to his name so far.

The 24-year-old believes his improvement in form is down to deflecting the barrage of criticism which he admitted got to his head at times last season.

 “Last season was really difficult,” he told FourFourTwo after Tuesday evening’s training session at ITE College Central.

“There’re fans who love me, but I also know there’s a section of them who booed me which I got quite affected. This season I told myself not to get so affected by these off-the-field things and let these distractions get to me; I just have to focus on my priorities and what I need to do for the team.

“Of course it’s also fortunate that I scored in the first game of the season (against PDRM FA), so I didn’t have to wait long to get off the mark and that gave me the confidence to keep going.”

That was not the only factor in his rise thus far, as he revealed a chance reunion with former coach Kadir Yahaya at team-mate Afiq Yunos’s wedding earlier in the year played a part in him upping the ante. 

The latter, who is now part of the Singapore Under-23s coaching team, was instrumental in developing the likes of Quak, Afiq, Izwan Mahbud, Hariss Harun and Izzdin Shafiq during their the National Football Academy (NFA) Under-15s and Under-16s days.

“I still remember that moment when Kadir came to me at Afiq’s wedding,” he shared.

“I have a lot of respect for him and he really gave me a good wake-up call. He asked me how old am I and how much longer do I want to sit on the bench. He told me I have to wake up and I should be playing regularly at this age now.

“After that I thought, true lah… Players from my batch like Hariss have gone to greater things; Hafiz (Sujad) and Faritz (Hameed) has been regular starters, whereas I’m not. I’m always featuring but mostly it’s off the bench.

“I really want to be playing regularly, so that’s why this season I put my mind and act together to go about achieving it.”

Despite his recent upturn in form, Quak played down suggestions that he is playing the best football of his career of yet – preferring to focus on the team’s achievements.

“It’s pleasing to be playing better but it’s still early,” he insisted.

“The journey will get tougher for me and the rest, given that the other teams know more about us now. Also I’m not sure if our upcoming national duties will disrupt things so I’m just taking one game at a time.

“For me, the number one thing is to help the team to defend then attack. As long we keep things tight as a unit and don’t concede, we always have a chance to win.”

Setting sights on an FA Cup final

The LionsXII have a realistic chance of attaining silverware this season, with Terengganu FA standing in their way of a place in the Malaysia FA Cup final which is set to be played at the Bukit Jalil Stadium on May 23.

While Quak believes the Turtles are the favourites going into this two-legged tie, he is hopinh his side have what it takes to upset the odds.

“Terengganu is a strong team although they have lost three games in a row,” he said.

“When playing against us, teams are usually different so hopefully we can do something. We definitely have to take something in the first leg at home before facing them away. From there, anything can happen in the final.

“We haven’t been to any cup final before as a team, so I really hope the fans come down and support us this Saturday.”