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Monday, April 09, 2001

M-League - Operation ‘promotion' kicks off

As Brunei prepare for their first game in the Malaysian League Premier Two competition tonight away to the Armed Forces, it has become very obvious that the key word for this season is 'promotion'.

That is the goal that has been set by coach Mick Jones to his players and the Englishman is confident that they will respond in positive fashion.

While off-the-field preparations have left a bit to be desired with BAFA only confirming their participation in the M-League just a few weeks ago, Jones has long kept his players together for training and has also integrated several new faces into the squad.

Said Jones, "There is no doubt in my mind that the main priority for this season is promotion. That is the goal I have set the players as I still feel that our rightful place is in Premier One."

Jones is in his second full season as head coach of the Wasps and just like in his first season, Jones has seen several veterans retire from the team due to family or work commitments.

The latest self-exiles include Suni Mat Jerah, Abang Norsillmy Abang Hj Taha and Rosanan Samak, with all three being included in the World Cup squad that played their first match on Saturday night against Yemen.

Rosli Liman, man-of-the-match in Brunei's Malaysia Cup Final win two years ago, has been forced to retire from the national team because of his doctor's advice regarding his constant knee injury.

But there is a difference this time as Jones has spent the majority of the off-season scouting for new players and is confident that this time he has found some gems although he did not mention any individual names.

"I have brought in seven new players from Kasuka and amongst these seven, there is some talent. But they will also have to establish themselves from scratch," added Jones.

By this Jones is hinting that every player starts on a level playing field from the beginning and it is up to the players to impress if and when they are given the chance to.

Jones refused to give too much away with regards to tonight's starting lineup but with a deeper squad at his disposal, there are certainly more options for the Brunei coach to consider.

It was hard to imagine it possible but the team has got even younger this year but Jones is hopeful that several of last year's youngsters can step forward and assume more of a leadership role especially to the new boys.

Added Jones, "It is time for players like Subhi and Fadlin to start acting more mature and accept that they are now the senior players. Where once they looked to the likes of Liew (Chuan Fue), Rosli and Rosanan, they now have to be the leaders for the new boys.

"This is where last year's experience would have helped them assume this role a bit better. Salleh has always been a good leader but others have to step forward now also."

(By Benny Ang)

Source: Borneo Bulletin

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