The battle for the MHL supremacy starts on December 17, but for UniKL coach Darren Smith, the past month has been spent on getting his soldiers primed for the arduous task ahead.

Darren, who is also the assistant coach of the New Zealand squad, arrived in Malaysia last month to prepare the UniKL side for the MHL and having spoken to him when he first arrived and after a month of training his charges, one could see the optimism he has for his bunch of youngsters.

Setting a modest target of a place in the last eight and opting to take it one match at a time, Darren said that winning matches or titles is not the only thing expected of a coach.

" There are some intelligent and skillful youngsters in the squad and my aim is for them to be able to have the confidence to take on the more experienced opponents with confidence,"  said Darren.

"My immediate aim is to forge an understanding between the youngsters and some of the more experienced players in the team

"Hence the past month has been spent to correct mistakes and to build on our strengths.

"I will be more then satisfied if at the end of my coaching contract some of the younger players in the team manage to impress the national team setup and make the squad."

UniKL will have the services of two New Zealand players, in the likes of keeper Steve Graham and defender Richard Patrick as well as Germany's Philip Stahr and Kevin Lim, whose father is a Malaysian.

"To be honest I have yet to see any of the teams in action and we have some friendly matches lined up over the next two weeks that should give us an indication of what to expect," said Darren.

When asked of the Malaysian team's performance in the final of the Asian Games against Pakistan, Darren said:

"The Malaysian players were rather subdued in the first half and only in the later part of the match did they show some urgency.

"They are a skillful bunch and I doubt it was the lack of experience that let them down. Rather I would say that they had a day off as they are capable of playing much better then what they did.

"It was a commendable outing nonetheless and they can build from this in their quest for a place in the 2012 Olympics."



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