New Penang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan says it will be time of rejuvenation for him and the club after the ex-Selangor boss signed on until the end of the Malaysia Super League (MSL) season.
With the goal of avoiding relegation, Zainal will take over from departed Englishman Ashley Westwood, who failed to win any of his eight MSL games. After two draws and six defeats, Penang are stranded at the foot of the table, six points adrift of safety.
"This is a time of rejuvenation for me and Penang. My time at Selangor was not a great one, but I have learnt from it and am ready to move on," said Zainal at an official unveiling on Friday.
The 55-year-old was axed by the Red Giants in last August after an abysmal run of results. Since then, Zainal took some time off before spending a short coaching stint as guest of Malaysian-owned side Cardiff City, who play in England's second tier.
- FC Penang (@FCPenang) March 24, 2017
The former Pahang boss, who won two FA Cup titles, a Malaysia Cup trophy and a Charity Shield with the Elephants, called on the support of everyone on the island to lift the Panthers out of their predicament.
He said: "I know the expectations are high on me. I am not a magician, I will need the support of everyone connected to the club to save us this season. I will assess and evaluate all the players on Monday, and hopefully they will give me their utmost cooperation."
Penang have also given Zainal an RM3 million boost for reinforcements in the second transfer window in late May. Apart from Brazilian defender Reinaldo Lobo, who was retained from last year, Penang's other foreign signings Nigel Dabingyaba, Diogo Ferreira and Andrew Rusell were all brought in by ex-Manchester United junior Westwood.
Zainal's first assignment comes with an away trip to Felda United in the league on April 9.
The former national hero can take plenty of inspiration from Penang's mighty escape last year.
They occupied the relegation zone for large parts of the season before surviving the drop when they edged Sarawak 1-0 in their final game of MSL game.
Hopes were high that Westwood, who won two Indian league titles with Bengaluru FC, would guide them to the top half of the table this year.
But the Englishman's strict and regimented ways did not go down well with all of his players. His reign was cut short, despite the 40-year-old pleading for a minimum of 10 to 12 games to prove himself.