*Initial contract with the Red Warriors is until end of the season
*Players ready to deliver, says Azraai
Azraai Khor Abdullah, the new man at the helm of the Red Warriors after taking over the hot seat from Dutchman George Boateng, has been given a top five target in the Super League plus win one of the three silverwares at stake in the M-League.
The former international and widely travelled across the country as a coach, Azraai was also happy with what he saw of the team when he had his first session with the team and other management officials in Kota Bahru on Wednesday. He will be assisted by former international Zahasmi Ismail – no newcomer to Azraai as Zahasmi was with the Kelantan TNB team when Azraai was the coach.
Boateng was removed as the chief coach after the Red Warriors won only two of the five matches played so far but are in the FA Cup semi-finals of the FA Cup. The former Dutchman has been made as the Kelantan FA’s technical director. Boateng’s assistant Hashim Mustphas has also made way from the coaching lineup and is Boateng’s assistant technical director.
Azraai’s first match as the new head coach is an away match against neighbours Terengganu in Kuala Terengganu on April 4 and the East Coast derby will kick start Azraai’s “journey” with the Red Warriors. This is Azraai’s second sojourn in the east coast as he was the T-Team coach last season before he quit.
“There are many positives in the team. It is a matter of blending them into a challenging team. The players have all the football skills and mental attitude to succeed. We will work on this and take off Kelantan’s challenge in the M-League.
“The plus factor is that Kelantan are battling on all fronts. So nothing is lost for the Red Warriors. A top five finish in the (Super) League is a challenge and our journey starts with an away match against Terengganu. It is a real ‘biggie’ for both teams,” said Azraai from Kota Bahru..
The winds of change in Kelantan were imminent after the Red Warriors won only two of the five matches in the Super League.and suffered embarassing back-to-back defeats at home – 4-0 to Police and 1-0 to Felda United. Incidentally Police and Felda earned promotion to the Super League after winning Premier League and runners-up respectively.
Kelantan defeated Armed Forces and Lions XII by 2-0 margins in their opening two matches. The whitewash by Police at home was followed by a scoreless draw against Perak in Ipoh before Felda inflicted more pain on the Red Warriors at the Sultan Mohd IV Stadium.
Azraai becomes a Red Warriors with strong credentials and was Kedah’s most successful local coach when he led his homestate to win back-to-back treble
(League, FA Cup and the prestigious Malaysia Cup) in 2007 and 2008. H was also twice (2008 and 2008) Coach of the Year in the annual 100PLUS-FAM National Football Awards.
He also had a stint with Negri Sembilan in 2011-2012) and won the Malaysia Cup and the Charity Shield with the Deer before he left to join Perak in 2013..
The month of April will be tough for Azraai and company. After Terengganu, Kelantan will be at home to FA Cup and Malaysia Cup champions Pahang on April 11 followed by the tough away match against defending champions Johor Darul Takzim, April 18, Selangor (April 25, away). In between Kelantan will face Sime Darby in the home and away FA Cup.