KUCHING: Under former English coach Alan Vest the Crocs were the most consistent side in the country during the 1992-1998 period including five years among the top three in the Malaysian League.
Under him Sarawak won the FA Cup in 1992, the Charity Shield (1998) and the Premier League title in 1997.
In a recent interview with The Star, Vest spoke about his seven years in Sarawak, his achievements and that of the team.
He said the achievements were just rewards for the players and the fans.
Meanwhile, for the former president of Football Association of Sarawak (FAS), the late Datuk Taha Ariffin, the achievement finally came after 23 years of waiting to win a major title like the Premier League championship.
“What a relief after all these years (since 1973). I am very happy that we are finally the champion (Premier League Champion),” Taha was reported as having said in a local daily after Kuala Lumpur drew with Sabah at Likas Stadium.
Sarawak was then waiting for the outcome of the Sabah-Kuala Lumpur match before being declared the Premier League champion.
Vest thought the seven years of hard work had paid off handsomely.
Seasoned players like John Hunter, Jeff Currans, David Evans, Mohd Ali Sapiee, Roslan Ismail, Jalil Rambli, Zaidel Sakup and goalkeeper Mazlan Wahed played a wonderful job to win the FA Cup and the Charity Shield.
For new comers like Alistair Edwards, Billy Bone, Ramos and Ramles Sari and the rest of the boys, they had all done a wonderful job in helping the team to win the Premier League title.
Vest admitted that it was “painful” waiting. But when it was confirmed that Kuala Lumpur had forced a draw, joy swept through the team and state.
He said the players deserved the honour because despite the injury woes they managed to cope with the challenge.
“And for their good discipline, they deserved the victory,” he said.
According to Vest, they actually did not expect to be champion.
“We just went into the league hoping to win every game,” said Vest.
Born in 1939, Vest is an English-born New Zealand former football player and manager from Barnsley, England.
He currently resides in Perth, Australia and is technical director to the Sarawak Football Development Programme (SFDP) under the Sarawak State Sports Council (MSNS).
Vest had a notable playing career, scoring on his full international debut for the All Whites in a 4-1 win over New Caledonia on Sept 17, 1972 and ended his international playing career with 17 A-international caps and six goals to his credit, his final cap being in a 0-0 draw with Iran on Aug 12, 1973.
Vest first coached Rugby Town in the 1960s and then Rochdale United.
It was in Australia that Vest made his mark with the Yorkshire-man coaching NSL teams when they were at their peak in the 1970s.
After stints in New Zealand and in Perth as a director of coaching at the Football Federation of Western Australia. Vest spent time in Asia with Sarawak and Geylang United before returning to Australia.
As a player Vest played for Barnsley from 1960 to 1961, King’s Lynn (1961–1962), Boston United (1962-1965) cap 19, scoring eight goals, Spalding United (1965-1965) and Worksop Town (1965), Rugby Town, Gisborne City (1973-1974), Perth Azzuri (1974-1977), Newcastle KB United (1978), New Zealand (1972-1973 (cap 17, six goals).
Teams managed by Vest were Rubgy Town, Rochdale United, Western Australian director of coaching, New Brighton, Newcastle KB United, West Adelaide SC before coming to Sarawak (1992-1998), Geyland United (1999-2000), Perth Glory Assistant Manager (2001-2005), Inglewood United (2005-2006) and ECU Joondalup (2009).
In Sarawak Vest is also known as the “White Rajah” of football. Under his management, the Sarawak FA won the Malaysian FA Cup, the Malaysian Premier League and the Malaysian Charity Shield.
Vest had visited various parts of the state including Bario.
“I have a great time in Sarawak but my only regret is I did not learn to speak Malay and other native dialects,” he said.
Vest said he still had another mission to fulfil in Sarawak, that is, to see the state junior football team win the gold medal in next year’s Malaysia Games in Perlis.
As the technical director of Sarawak Football Development Programme (SFDP) under the Sarawak State Sports Council (MSNS), Vest will come back to Kuching again soon for the team’s preparation.
He also suggested to bring the team for a playing tour of Perth, Australia.