Keeshaanan Sundaresan from Fox Sports Malaysia, gives us the lowdown on our new signing, Patrick Cruz.
Q- What would you say are Patrick’s main strengths?
I’d like to think that he’s versatile. He’s able to play in any positions across the front three, though ideally, he works better in the middle. He could play there, upfront, or even alongside a partner, like he did at times for Pahang, with Austin Amutu. Cruz is also able to function as an attacking midfielder.
Q – What are his weaknesses?
Consistency was the niggling issue at times. He could go from scoring in back to back games to struggling to find the back of the net in the next three. But I also suspect that’s down to the service he gets, which was relatively inconsistent at Pahang last season. If you were to look at his best performance, you’d wonder why he didn’t score more in the league.
Q – Which was his best performance last season?
Most certainly the FA Cup quarter final 2nd leg vs Johor Darul Ta’zim. The first leg in Kuantan was a drab 0-0 affair, and there was a lot of pressure on Pahang heading into the second leg, simply because JDT are usually untouchable at home. But Patrick Cruz stepped up and stole the show with a hat-trick that took Pahang into the semis. They went on to win the FA Cup as well and Cruz scored a penalty in their 2-0 final win over Selangor.
Q – And his worst?
Can’t particularly pin point a single game, but there were times when he did struggle for goals. As mentioned, consistency is something he has got to work on to become a formidable forward in this region.
Q – How is he perceived by the Pahang fans?
He was widely loved by the fans. They had a topsy-turvy season. Won the FA Cup, didn’t do too well in the league, and got knocked out in the quarter finals of the Malaysia Cup. But Cruz scored 11 goals and ended the season as Pahang’s top scorer. He is also cheerful character, and was loved by his teammates.
Q – What do opposition fans think of him?
There’s no reasons for fans to hate him, but they weren’t exactly fearful of him as well. If he was a bit more consistent, then perhaps. But with Cruz, it was always a case of, will he turn up today?
Q – And how is he perceived by the media?
Similar story. He was nice to people in Pahang as well as members of the press. His interviews were always filled with passion and energy. A clear example would be the interview he did in the build up to the FA Cup final, where he spoke passionately about wanting to bring the trophy back to Pahang after four years of not winning it.
Q – What is the perception of Thai league football in Malaysia?
The perception is that the league is a competitive one. The success of clubs like Buriram United and Muangthong is widely recognized here, and the movement of players from the Thai League to the J.League is also treated as a key benchmark that indicates how competitive the league really is.
I think most people would agree that the Thai League is better than the Malaysia Super League at this point. The quality of players are better, the competition is tougher, the season is longer and it’s also a pretty aggressive league (as Shahrel Fikri alluded to after his stint with Nakhon Ratchasima last season). But there is a feeling that with clubs like Johor Darul Ta’zim, Pahang, Terengganu and Perak showing signs of improvements, it’s not very far off.
Q – Would you like to see more players from Malaysia come to play in Thailand?
Without a doubt. At this point, I’d like to see Malaysian footballers go anywhere. Because there are few players doing that at the moment. Curran Ferns is in Sukhothai and Kiko Insa was with Bangkok Glass. Shahrel had the stint with the Swat Cats as well. But with the exception of Shahrel, the other two are naturalized players. I’d like to see more local boys go and push themselves harder in a more competitive league. It’s the only way Malaysian football can grow beyond the bubble it is currently in. Thailand is a great place to start too because it’s geographically near, but culturally very different. So it’s like being in a different environment, though not too far away from home.
Q – How do you think Patrick will cope at Chonburi and in T1?
If he gels with the other guys in the dressing room, Cruz stands a good chance of doing well. It’s a bigger challenge, but Cruz has shown ability to adapt. He has already played in Indonesia, Malaysia (twice) and also in Vietnam. As long as he is consistent, and is allowed the freedom to operate upfront, Cruz will get you goals.
Q – What advice would you give him to help him succeed?
He’s always scored goals, but he has to not let that get to his head, because the Thai League will be a whole different ball game. It’s of a higher quality and defenders are far more aggressive. Also, work on being a bit more consistent. But that’s not just down to him – it also depends on the team structure, where he is played and how often he plays.
Q – And what advice would you give our coaching staff in order to get the best from him?
Cruz is really good to watch when he is given the freedom to move in any direction from a default attacking midfield role. Let him sit behind a prolific striker and operate as a support striker.
Q – So, to sum up, what can we expect from our new signing?
Off the pitch, expect a really warm character, who will always don a smile on his face and be nice to fans. On the pitch, expect a striker that will impress you on his best days and frustrate you on his poor days. Let’s hope it’s more of the former, than the latter.
With thanks to Keesh.