Kim Do-hoon may have been confirmed as the new head honcho of Lion City Sailors earlier this week, but Robin Chitrakar’s job as the club’s interim head coach is not done just yet.
With coach Kim only officially linking up with the team in June, Robin will still be in charge for the Sailors’ Singapore Premier League (SPL) clash against Young Lions on Saturday (May 22). He will hand over the reins to the AFC Champions League winner during the ensuing international break.
But while the 44-year-old’s time at the helm may have been short, there is no doubt he has done well to build on the foundations laid by former head coach Aurelio Vidmar.
Under Robin, the Sailors have continued to play an attacking, possession-based style of football that is pleasing to the eye. But they also displayed an ability to dig deep and play gritty when needed, as shown in their narrow wins over Geylang International and Tanjong Pagar United.
Reflecting on the Sailors’ last two games against the Eagles and Jaguars, Robin said: “We knew how difficult it would be – teams are now becoming more aggressive and tighter at the back against us.
“But I’m proud that we’ve managed to overcome those challenges to win. It just shows that this team has leaders and a lot of character, and is determined to win every game.”
The Sailors have now won five straight matches, and are unbeaten in their last seven. More importantly, they remain hot on the heels of current league leaders Albirex Niigata (S) – the Sailors are currently second in the table on 23 points, just one behind the reigning SPL champions.
Despite what has been an ‘amazing’ experience with the senior squad so far, Robin is focused on ensuring a smooth handover to Kim, and returning to his primary role as Head of Youth Development at the Sailors.
“I’m grateful to the club for giving me this opportunity (to be interim head coach). It’s been great to manage these consummate professionals who are always respectful, and are willing to put in the hard work,” said Robin. “But my main role at the club is to take care of young players , and that isn’t going to change.
“For me, the most important thing is to keep the things in place for coach Kim to take over. He’s a coach whose achievements speak for themselves, and I’m sure he’ll take the club to a whole new level.”
For now, though, Robin’s attention is firmly fixed on the game against his former side, Young Lions, this weekend, as he seeks to end his interim head coach stint on a high.
While the Young Lions are still winless this season, they have proven themselves tough to beat on their day, having held title-chasing Hougang United to a 1-1 draw previously, and only just falling to a narrow 2-1 defeat to Albirex last Saturday.
And Robin insists the Sailors cannot afford to be complacent against Philippe Aw’s young charges.
“Obviously we want to continue the winning momentum to close the gap on Albirex, but a victory will not be so straightforward,” Robin declared.
“I’ve watched them play this season – they were leading against Hougang before conceding an equaliser in the last minute, and they could easily have forced Albirex to a draw. Coach Phillipe has got them pretty organised, so we definitely need to dig deep again to get the three points.”