Both as a player and coach, P. Maniam has scaled the heights of football success. And the Petaling Jaya City FC (PJ City) head coach is aiming to take his side further than it’s ever gone in this year’s Malaysia Cup.

The Phoenix’s accomplishments in the storied cup competition have so far been confined to the group stage. But the man at the helm is convinced that the 100th edition of the tournament will see a more motivated and driven side.

“Our team’s (positive) mindset is based on our recent performances, and I can vouch that we are very confident of winning in the Malaysia Cup,” Maniam says.

Positivity and experience are key

“There are several experienced players, namely captain K. Gurusamy, Khyril Muhymeen, Mahalli Jasuli, Darren Lok, Beto (Khairil Anuar) and S. Subramaniam, who’ve been great inspirations to the rest of the players.”

QNET’s very own PJ City finished seventh in the recently-concluded Malaysian Super League, a remarkable feat considering the team’s decision to field only local players.

And the gaffer’s right that it was the experience of the side’s seasoned campaigners that proved crucial in the many crunch ties, including a memorable season-ending win over Maniam’s old team, Selangor.

This same maturity was on show on Monday, Sept 27, at MBPJ Stadium as The Phoenix claimed an important 1-1 draw against Sabah in the first match of its Malaysia Cup campaign.

The challenge now, though, is to keep battling hard and working towards etching the club’s name in the history books.

It won’t be easy, of course, given that PJ City is in Group D alongside formidable opposition like Sabah — which it’ll have to face again in November — as well as Kelantan and Super League champs Johor Darul Ta’zim.

Nevertheless, Maniam is confident that a quarterfinal spot is within reach.

Sticking together

He adds that the unity displayed by the team thus far, both on the pitch and in the boardroom, will be necessary to the side’s onward march.

“At PJ City, we play as a team. When we attack, we attack as a team, and when we defend, we defend as a team.”

It is this, he says, that’ll prove to be the team’s strength.

“We have not qualified for the quarterfinals before. But this year, with our local players and with the management’s direction, we believe we can do better than in the past.”

And then, there is the Maniam factor itself.

The former Selangor and Harimau Malaya ace — who lifted the Malaysia Cup three times as a player in 1995, 1996 and 1997, and once as a coach in 2015 — will undoubtedly be looking to inspire the team with his unique knowledge of the competition.

Recalling how his first two cup triumphs were especially memorable, Maniam admits that victory was even sweeter when he claimed the prize as an assistant trainer in 2015.

“It was my first experience winning the Malaysia Cup as a coach, and I have to thank (then Selangor boss) Mehmet Duraković for working together with me while I was coaching the team,” he says.

Six years on, and it’s Maniam who now leads a team from his home state into battle in Malaysia’s premier football tournament. And the gaffer, like everyone else at QNET, believes one thing — The Phoenix will rise!

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