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 By Paul Murphy

Tan Cheng Hoe needs time to 'recover' Malaysia as coach - Ong Kim Swee

Malaysia Under-23 boss Ong Kim Swee is confident of a bright future working with Tan Cheng Hoe, the new head coach of the Harimau Malaya.

Tan was appointed on Thursday, following the short but doomed reign of Nelo Vingada, who failed to win any of his seven games in charge, losing six.

FAM's Crown Prince president TMJ had to swallow his pride, having handpicked Portugal's Vingada in search of foreign coach after demoting Ong to oversee the Malaysian U23 squad.

Ong defied expectations, while proving a point to TMJ, by winning eight of 10 games in 2017 with the unheralded, developmental outfit.

Being well aware of the challenges his friend and fellow Malaysian will face at senior level, Ong believes he and Tan can work effectively together.

"This is a good combination as we need each other to produce good talent for present and future," Ong told The Malay Mail.

"Cheng Hoe and I have been friends for more than a decade, we have no problems with each other. Thus, this relationship can help us to embark on new strategic development planning for both Harimau Malaya and the youth."

Tan has had success at club level by helping Kedah win promotion to the Malaysia Super League in 2015 and a Malaysia Cup win in 2016, taking them to consecutive finals.

Kedah coach Tan Cheng Hoe
Tan Cheng Hoe won the 2016 Malaysia Cup after Kedah defeated Selangor on penalties.

He was also assistant coach to K. Rajagobal when the Harimau Malaya won the 2009 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medal and lifted the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2010.

It is a track record that raises expectations. However, Ong has warned that it will take time for the new man to deliver the results the country desperately wants after a miserable 2017 ended with a slide to an all-time low of 174th in the FIFA rankings.

"I need to stress that Cheng Hoe needs time to 'recover' the team. In fact, any coach leading Harimau Malaya at this point needs time," Ong said.

Tan will no doubt be watching with interest when Ong takes Malaysia's under-23 side to next month's AFC U23 championship in China.

Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK

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