Sundram: Isa will be a class addition for Tampines
The deal was completed just hours before the June transfer deadline on Friday night, with Isa set to figure immediately in coach V. Sundramoorthy’s plans once he clears the mandatory 2.4km fitness test.
Speaking to FourFourTwo on Saturday evening, the Tampines coach could not hide his delight at landing the 29-year-old.
“With his experience, leadership qualities and fighting spirit, he’s definitely going to be a class addition to this squad,” Sundram said.
“We have a long league season with the League Cup and the Singapore Cup, so we need to be ready for all situations. He will definitely give us good options and help in our team’s performance.”
Isa had been an ever-present in the LionsXII squad since the inception in 2012, featuring in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) winning campaign a year later and also playing a part in their recent Malaysia FA Cup triumph.
However, the past two seasons have not been kind for the Singapore international, despite him taking over the captain's armband from the departing Shahril Ishak in 2014.
He missed much of that season due to a heel injury and an Achilles tendon tear, returning to full fitness this year but continuing to play a peripheral role in Fandi Ahmad’s plans.
Having coached Isa back in 2007 to 2009 at the Courts Young Lions and subsequently from 2012 to 2013 at the LionsXII, Sundram wasted little time in persuading the former to link up with him for a third time.
He hopes that this move can pave the way for Isa to earn a national team recall, with the midfield hard man not having had an opportunity to add to his 50-over caps since 2013.
“I knew Isa since he was a youngster and I know how we can contribute to this team,” Sundram said.
“He’s that kind of defensive player who gives nothing less than 100%, unless he is injured.
“Basically the most important thing is this boy wants to play soccer, that’s why I tried to sign him once I knew he was available.
“With more playing time, he can put himself back into the (national team) reckoning again and why not? Even players over 30 have gotten call-ups.”
Quak: Isa will be missed
Ex-LionsXII team mate Gabriel Quak was also full of praise at how Isa conducted himself despite the lack of playing time at the club.
He admitted that Isa's departure would be a huge loss to the Malaysian Super League side.
“I really respect him, not just because he’s the captain and a senior player,” the 24-year-old said.
“Most importantly I respect how he handled the situation although he was down the pecking order.
“He still maintained his dignity, gives his 100% in training and is always there to speak up for us, fight for us and to guide us.
“All the players respect his character and he will definitely be missed by us.”