NEW broom Australian Neil Hawgood believes Malaysia has many skilful and talented players, but he will need at least two and a half years before he can turn them into medal winners.
Hawgood has been hired as consultant for the Singapore World League Round Two, and that was his assessment after watching coach Tai Beng Hai's players train at the Sengkang Stadium.
"Well it took me two and a half years to turn the India women's team around, (and that should be the yardstick)," he said yesterday.
The senior Indian women qualified for the World Cup, while the juniors won bronze in the Junior World Cup.
Hawgood is being courted as the national coach, but first, the National Sports Council (NSC) wants the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) to clean up their amended constitution before talks about a foreign coach can move further.
His contract with India expired in December, and if all goes well Hawgood could just be foreign coach that MHC have been trying to secure for the last year.
When asked if he will adapt the Australian style in Malaysia: "No, that is not the approach I will take as every country has its own strength in playing hockey and I will work to improve some weak departments but not the sytle of play as Malaysia has very skilful players and I will work with this unique charachter and balance it out to bring out the best," said Hawgood.
Malaysia has seen many foreign coaches before Hawgood and even the likes of Australian Terry Walsh, and Germans Volker Knapp, Paul Lissek and South African Paul Revington could not do much to improve the world rankings.
Malaysia are stuck on no 13: "World rankings do not mean a thing because world no 20 teams have finished fifth in the World League. India are the best in Asia, but second to South Korea in the world.
"The main aim is to develop a winning mentality, and with it, medals will come and naturally, the rankings will also be better."
In Singapore Hawgood said Malaysia have had a very good preparation, and if the players focus on the task at hand, winning a gold medal is not beyond this team.