Jurgen Raab takes over at Tampines Rovers, plans German-style football

Half a world away from Anfield, there is another German manager called Jurgen in charge of an under-performing team in red, dreaming of returning to their glory days.

Last week, Singapore giants Tampines Rovers confirmed 58-year-old Jurgen Raab as their new head coach for the 2017 S.League, beginning later this month.

It was an appointment made necessary by the club's surprise decision to part ways with previous coach Akbar Nawas.

Akbar had guided the Stags to a second-place finish in the league and the Singapore Cup last year after taking over midway through the campaign, following the departure of V. Sundramoorthy for the Singapore national team job.

Just days after Tampines were beaten by Philippine outfit Global FC in an AFC Champions League qualifier on Jan. 24, it was announced that Akbar's time with the club had come to an end by mutual agreement.

That paved the way for the introduction of Raab, who is by no means a stranger to Singapore football.

Initially joining the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) in 2014 as a fitness coach, the ex-Bundesliga assistant boss took charge of Young Lions in mid-2015.

Prior to that, the Young Lions had been languishing at the bottom of the table, with four points from seven games. But after he took over from Aide Iskandar, they finished ninth out of 10 S.League teams, winning six and drawing five of their next 20 matches.

While the Young Lions were a developmental side with lesser expectations, Tampines are one of the traditional heavyweights in the S.League.

So there will certainly be pressure on Raab, who put pen to paper on a three-year contract, to deliver the goods.

Here are three things to expect from the Stags, under Raab in 2017:

1. Modern playing style to attract the fans

To their credit, Raab's two predecessors both achieved considerable success with their respective game plans.

Sundram may have received criticism for what was perceived as negative tactics, but he rarely failed to get the results. And Akbar certainly thrilled the crowds with his offensive style of football.

Raab will be hoping his new charges can dominate games in a similar vein to that of the reigning world champions, Germany.

"There's more experience in this team [compared to Young Lions], and that normally means it's easier to work with such players," Raab told ESPN FC. "They know what they have to do on the pitch.

"But I want to change the style a little bit and that normally needs time, although I hope all the players are open-minded about it, and they really want to do the same.

"We want to change it to have more ball possession, dominate the match, create chances and then score goals.

"That should be what every team wants."

2. Bringing through the next generation

It has been no secret that big clubs like Tampines don't always put youth development at the top of their priorities, in favour on their pursuit of success.

Still, a quick glance at great European clubs like Ajax, Manchester United, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund suggests that the two do not always have to be mutually exclusive.

It will come as music to the ears of Tampines' up-and-coming brigade that Raab's philosophy is to give new blood a chance.

"I enjoyed working with the Young Lions, and it was nice to see what the possibilities are of developing players if they're open to new things," Raab explained.

"We have good players like Daniel Bennett and Fahrudin Mustafic. But, at 39 and 35 years of age respectively, we also have to look to the future.

"I'm a coach who is always looking for young players, but that's not to say that you get to play just because you're young.

"They must perform during training, show that they want to improve their skills, and have the hunger to be in the team.

"They must learn and fight with the more experienced players, and want to show they're better than them."

3. Guiding Tampines back to the summit

Given their status as one of Singapore's most successful clubs, Tampines' three years without a major piece of silverware is indeed a long wait.

The quest for success only gets more difficult each year, with their rivals also constantly improving.

Despite the fact that Raab has to security of a three-year deal, he insists he will not allow any complacency to creep in, as he is aware of the expectations at a club of Tampines' stature.

"As a coach, I always have the target to be champions, whether it be in the S.League or maybe the cup competitions," Raab said.

"That is clear, but we also have a very short time for preparation and we need to come together for the team to understand what I want, and to bring them to the best fitness levels.

"There is also the AFC Cup, which is always very interesting because you get the survey the quality around the region, see what level they are at, and figure out what we have to do to close the gap between teams from Thailand or Vietnam.

"It was very important that the management gave me the confidence of a three-year contract, because they have the same vision as me.

"If we want to change something, it's not done in one month of half a year but that's not to say that it's alright if we finish eighth or ninth.

"I know from my experience that you still have to show the performances, even in the first year, with what is possible in the situation. After that, we know that was the first step and we see what we can do next.

"So, it won't be my primary motivation to say that we will be the champions this year, but we want to do our best to achieve this.

"It's important for me to see the style of football we want and, hopefully, we can connect this with good results."

The new S.League season begin on Feb. 26, with Tampines playing their first AFC Cup game against Malaysia's Felda United on Feb. 21.