The Grilled support were hit by the news that longtime Brazilian head coach Djan Bacelar
had resigned effective immediately, with the proximate cause being a vote of no confidence by the board. His 51 year-old Georgian understudy Hovaness Noubaryan
will take over as caretaker, but most insiders are expecting Noubaryan to be confirmed as the permanent replacement, after a period of settling-in.
Bacelar had been with the Birds as a player since his was 31, and was installed in the driver's seat five seasons after that. His reign began right after Niculae Stanca's tremendous Singapore Cup-winning season, and carried on excellently, with a Division Two and Challenger Cup double in only his second full season. More titles and Challenger Cups followed, together with a short stay in the S-League.
It would be downhill after that, sadly, as Bacelar proved unwilling or unable to adapt his style, after losing players the calibre of Mohd Safri and Chow Ying Lee. The Birds continued to attack to a fault, but they no longer had the team chemistry and sheer individual genius to plow their way through obstacles. Persuaded by past glories, though, Grilled's upper management stuck by their man... until now.
On hindsight, it was a wonder how he lasted that long. "It feels bad to be sticking the knife in, but this was long overdue." Birds diehard Lo Yong Chien said. "Djan's won a lot with us, but there was just nothing coming out, ever since we relegated from the top flight. Really, it might have been best had we parted ways when Grilled fell into Division Three."
Noubaryan will at least take over without any particularly huge expectations hanging over his head, as Bacelar's axing seems to have sated the fans' call for blood for now. For his part, the new big man at The Cooking Pot first thanked his departing mentor, before promising that there wouldn't be any immediate huge disruptions.
"There will be change, but not for the sake of it." he explained. "The squad is in fairly okay shape, so while there will be additions, I'm firmly of the opinion that quality must be emphasized over quantity. I'll be taking a month or two to observe and recalibrate, before making any big decisions, assuming I stay in the position."
As for concrete targets, Noubaryan was not prepared to commit. "An improvement over last season would be nice, I'd like the team to promote too, but it's not top of the list frankly. We really don't want to be ping-ponging between divisions, I would much rather have a side that can challenge for a Division Two title, before going up."