The first of Glory’s Malaysian Tour games takes place this coming Saturday when Sarawak FA will provide the opposition at Negeri Stadium in Kuching.
Currently coached by Ian Gillan, a former member of Ian Ferguson’s backroom staff during his stint at Glory, ‘The Crocs’ as they are known, are currently plying their trade in the Premier League, Malyasia’s second tier.
So what can Tony Popovic’s men expect this weekend, other than warmer temperatures?
This is our potted guide to Sarawak FA…
Founded in 1974, Sarawak claimed their first major piece of silverware in 1992 when they won the Malaysia FA Cup under the guidance of former Glory interim coach, Alan Vest.
Alistair Edwards and Doug Ithier added a further Glory link to that ’90s side which took out the Liga Perdana title [then the country’s top tier competition] in 1997 and also reached the last eight of the Asian Cup Winners’ Cup.
The 2000s proved to be a period of transition for the club and it wasn’t until 2013 that the glory days returned.
Dutch coach Robert Alberts oversaw a remarkable campaign in which Sarawak remained unbeaten and earned the nickname ‘The Invincibles’ en route to claiming the Premier League [second tier] crown.
Following their promotion, they remained in the Super League [top tier] for four years before being relegated back to the Premier League where they finished eighth last season.
With their 2018 Premier League campaign having ended late last month, Head Coach Gillan has already switched his focus to the future and he’s adamant that the cultivation of local talent is the way forward for the ‘Crocs’.
“The whole club needs to be rebuilt in terms of its development structure,” he said.
“A plan needs to be created and a vision needs to be followed through.
“Development has been neglected here for a considerable amount of time and until it’s addressed, we’re not going to get good players coming through.
“Basically, we’ve got to be like Southampton rather than Manchester City in the way we go about things as a club.
“We have to be realistic and accept that it’s going to take time to build a team of young Sarawakians. The way forward is to build up a development structure from Under-15s through to the senior teams as soon as possible. We also need local leagues to be established to get kids playing football every week.
“It’s difficult, because geographically we are an island, a massive island. Sarawak is just like WA in terms of its isolation from the rest of the league and there are quite a few synergies between Sarawak and WA in that sense.
“Our season finished a couple of weeks ago and now we’re rebuilding the squad again. Next season we’re looking at getting as many local Sarawakian players in as possible.
“In terms of the game on Saturday, unfortunately our goalkeeper did his ACL in a game that we played last night, so we’ll have to put a reserve ‘keeper in.
“Our injury rate had been excellent, 95% better than last year, but all of a sudden we’ve had three knee injuries within three weeks, so that rate has taken a bit of a thumping.
“Our players are looking forward to playing against a side like Glory that has plenty of seasoned internationals in it, the likes of Ivan Franjic, Jason Davidson and so on, plus Diego Castro. It’ll be great for them to test themselves against players of that quality.”
Ones To Watch
31-year-old Roskam bagged nine goals for Sarawak last season, his second since joining the club from Singaporean outfit, Tampines Rovers.
The 1.87m frontman began his career in his native Croatia with NK Zagreb before spending two years with Spanish Segunda B side Cultural Leonesa.
In 2010 he returned to Croatia and enjoyed a prolific spell with Siroki Brijeg ahead of a switch to Slaven Belupo.
The Asian leg of his career then began in 2014 when he moved to Malaysia to join Sime Darby and it was his impressive form for the Selayang-based side that earned him his move to Tampines.
Malaysian international Gonzales is a livewire forward who has scored over 160 goals during a 15-year professional career.
He burst onto the domestic scene with his hometown club, Sabah, for whom he found the net 32 times in just 50 appearances.
Since then, the 34-year-old has turned out for a host of Malaysian league clubs, including FELDA United, PDRM and DPMM.
After two loan spells with Sarawak FA in 2011 and 2013, he finally joined the club on a permanent basis for the 2018 season and his tally of 14 goals saw him finish joint-second in the league top scorers list.