Monday, January 09, 2017


Alberts Deserves Coach Of Year Award After PSM Turnaround

Anyone who saw PSM Makassar at the start of the Indonesia Soccer Championship would have seen a team playing without conviction or belief. Coach Luciano Leandro was feeling the heat from day one and even though his team did defeat Persela Lamongan 2-1 in their second game of the season it was hardly a performance to set the pulses racing among the home support and following a loss away to Perseru Serui the Brazilian became the first coaching casualty of the season.

Following a short stint as caretaker by Tony Ho PSM turned to Dutch coach Robert Alberts to turn their season around. The experienced Alberts, most recently in charge of Malaysian side Sarawak, knew all about Indonesian football having guided Arema to the Indonesia Super League title back in 2009/10 but that was with a side brimming with talent and confidence.

PSM were a different kettle of fish and indeed if anyone was expecting a sudden turnaround in fortunes for the team from South Sulawesi they were in for a shock as the Eastern Roosters were only able to chalk up a single victory in Alberts’ first eight games in charge, striker Ferdinand Sinaga scoring a brace as PSM came from behind to defeat Persiba Balikpapan 3-2.

To be sure, Alberts had inherited a squad low on confidence. However he had started his spell in charge ruthlessly by dropping all four of the foreign players who had started the season yet who had underwhelmed the PSM faithful.

With the transfer window a couple of months away that move allowed Alberts to promote younger, more hungry players while he scouted the market for new recruits when the window opened in August. Evidence of a turnaround in PSM’s fortunes came early in July when the side unluckily lost 3-2 away to Persib Bandung. Muchlis Hadi’s equaliser on 81 minutes looked to have rescued a point for the team only for a late goal from the home side by Purwaka Yudhi to deprive them of a point. But PSM had impressed for much of the game with strong performances from the likes of Muchlis, Rasyid Bakri and Ardan Aras.

It could be argued Alberts was given that most precious of commodities, time, by the PSM management. But he also came to the club with a plan in place as we witnessed when he moved swiftly to axe the import players.

By August he had the team playing the way he wanted and they embarked on a 10 match unbeaten run, a fine head of steam that meant the addition of new import players, Luis Ricardo Lino Dos Santos, Paulo Cesar Da Silva Martins, Ronald Hikspoors and Willem Jan Pluim, could be introduced gradually into a winning team. As well as the foreign players Alberts recruited former SEA Games striker Titus Bonai to renew his partnership with a flourishing Sinaga.

The latter had started the campaign looking out of sorts in a poor side but as the season wore on he had become ever more influential, his spikey character, willingness to run at players and never say die character making him a handful for opponents. In fact so complete was Sinaga’s resurrection he was recalled to the national team by Alfred Riedl at the end of the year for the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Arema ended PSM’s unbeaten run PSM beat Sriwijaya 2-1 thanks to a late winner from Sinaga before being trounced 4-1 by a rampant Pusamania after taking the lead. A final charge at the end of the campaign saw a seven game winning streak only ended by Persipura Jayapura who put them to the sword in the final game, winning 4-2 to be crowned champions.

PSM ended the season in 6th place and the plaudits rang in Alberts’ ears. Typically the coach of the year is awarded to the guy who takes a team to the title but Alberts breaks the mould. He went in to the football club, made some tough decisions, placed his faith in youth and was rewarded for his efforts by receiving this award and even being linked with the national team position.

Despite the rumoured links with the Indonesian job he is firmly looking forward to the new season and has already being linked with Jong Ajax striker Ezra Walian and defender Zulkifli Syukur. PSM are the oldest professional football club in Indonesia but their fans haven’t had much to cheer about in recent years. Alberts has given them something to smile about and they will be hoping the coach of the year will be around in 2017 to build on the progress the club made last year.

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