BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
UKM FC boss Sulaiman Hussin is confident that the university side will get a second season in the Malaysia Premier League (MPL) next year, despite the fact that they are currently second last in the standings.
The university club are currently playing in the second tier for the first time in their history, after they were promoted at the conclusion of the previous season as runners up of the Malaysian third tier; the FAM Cup. But the Varsity Boys have been given a footballing education by their league opponents in their debut season; recording only one win and four defeats after five league rounds.
When met by Goal after their 4-1 friendly match defeat to Super League side Kuala Lumpur (KL) last Friday, Sulaiman said that his charges should be able to beat relegation this season; "If you ask me, I'm confident that we'll be staying in the Premier League."
However, he admits that in order to do this, his team needs to turn their performance around by minimising individual mistakes and improving individually.
"You can see in the match just now, KL's goals were soft goals. We've been creating goals for them, they didn't have to it themselves. Against Felda United in our second round FA Cup match, they barely played; we had most of the possession. They put away the few chances while we couldn't convert ours, and the match ended in a 2-1 defeat.
"Defending and scoring are more important in the Premier League; when you can't score, you need to defend well. But if you can't score and defend well, you're going to lose, it's that simple.
"Most of our local players are still adapting to the demands of playing in the Premier League, although some have coped well. They need to start adapting soon because we don't have a big squad. I'm still giving them a chance because we want to maintain our identity as a university side that fields graduates and undergraduates, but they need to use the opportunity and be more than just squad members.
"But I'm in no way upset with my players; they lack the experience as evident against KL just now. My players have the quality but experience is what has been separating them from the opponents," explained the former KL player.
He however noted that UKM must take it up a notch already, as their following five league games will be against teams that are second, third, fourth fifth and sixth in the standings respectively.
They will face Felcra FC (fifth) and Sarawak (fourth) away, Sabah (second) and MISC-MIFA (sixth) at home, before taking on the other M-League university club; UiTM FC (third) away.
"It's time we start collecting more points, we can't spend anymore time amassing experience. And to do that we need to minimise mistakes.
"We'll be taking on state teams such as Sabah and Sarawak, so we can't take it lightly. That's why we've been organising friendly matches during the break," he remarked.
UKM FC. Photo from UKM FC