A personal account by Dato Ong Kim Swee.
The road toward success is a Long and tough one. It will not be a bed of roses or a walk in the park.
I knew this from the very first day I assumed the role of national coach.
But little that I realised that more obstacles will be placed just when I felt that we had a team that would be able to mount a challenge in international Football.
The retirement and unavailability of several key players meant that carefully thought about plans would have to be altered, fast tracking of younger players was not an option but a necessity.
Many days and nights were spent with my coaching staff to plug the loop holes in terms of replacing those who opted out of the team.
I fully understand the situation and position of players who retired. They had served the nation well and though any coach worth his salt would have wanted them in his team, we also understand that we do not always get what we want.
My preparation, training methods, choice of matches and selection of players had often been frowned upon, questioned and criticised by some. But I stand by my decisions.
What all need to understand is these are the best available players in the country that fit my game plan or tactics.
They were selected due to their capability, availability and their desire to do the nation proud.
I have faith in each and everyone of them as I believe what they may lack in finesse they will make up with sheer grit and determination plus the desire to see the Jalur Genilang soar high and mighty.
Our AFF challenge will start with a match against Cambodia followed by Vietnam and Myanmar.
All teams are tough opponents and we need to navigate each match with extreme caution.
There is no such thing as a settled live up as we need to tailor make selection based on each match.
Therefore no player is guaranteed a place in the starting XI as it will depend on the opponents we are up against.
Trust me to field the best against each opponent that will suit our tactics and not perceive this as thinkering.
Our target is to make the last four and take it from there.
Some may feel that this target is far fetched given the team I have but I have one thing that many might not have - faith in the ability of these players.
We carry the hopes and aspirations of the nation, although some are hoping we fail.
If we were to fail it would not be for the want of trying but rather the fact that we were not good enough.
While performance is important, as a national coach I have come to realise that winning is a must, as only that can satisfy all.
Tactical awareness, fielding the right combination are two key elements that I need to look into during our matches in Myanmar.
Despite all the shortcomings, whatever the critics might and have said, I trust in my players and I believe that they should and will deliver.
Stand alongside these players, give them the morale booster and with that we believe that we will make the nation proud.