|Thirteen years after leaving Malaysian shores to make a name for himself in Europe, Titus James is close to getting his big break.|
PETALING JAYA: Thirteen years after leaving Malaysian shores to make a name for himself in Europe, Titus James is close to getting his big break.
The 26-year-old France-based Titus is set to attend trials with Championship side Blackburn Rovers, who were relegated from the Premier League last season.
Shebby still remembers the day he first met Titus – “at the “First Touch” programme which German coach Holger Obermann and I conducted at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya 15 years ago”.
“I met Titus as a young boy … he was only 11 then. Now I am meeting him again as a grown up. Although I have not seen him play, I will, in my capacity as the global adviser of the club, make sure he gets a fair trial at Rovers,” said Shebby.
Blackburn are currently in Austria for pre-season training.
“I will be in London to oversee the trial sessions next Thursday. For now Titus, who plays as a left-back with Nanteuil FC in the French Third Division, will have to compete with the team’s regular Martin Olsson of Sweden,” said Shebby.
Unlike the other Malaysians who have attended trials with English teams – Mohd Safee Sali (Cardiff City), Safiq Rahim (Cardiff City) and Syed Adney Syed Hussein (Middlesbrough) – former La Salle Brickfields student Titus will have no problem getting a work permit.
“I don’t think Titus will have any problems with work permit as he has been playing in the French League for 10 years,” said Shebby.
A non-European Union player must have featured in at least 75% of his national team’s ‘A’ level matches and his country must have averaged at least 70th in FIFA’s world rankings for him to qualify for a work permit.
“Titus will have the advantage of having acclimatised to the weather conditions, language and culture. He has everything going for him and I wish him good luck,” said Shebby.
Titus, meanwhile, was simply delighted to finally get a chance to prove his worth after waiting so long to break into English football.
“I know that if I make it … I will be the first Malaysian to play in England. I have played competitive football in France and I know what it’s like to play in Europe,” said Titus.
Shebby said that he has also been impressed with 17-year Mohd Nazmi Faiz, who signed a three-year contract with Portugal’s Premiera Liga side Beira-Mar recently.
“This is the right thing for up-and-coming Malaysian players to do – move abroad. The owners of Blackburn Rovers – Venky’s London Limited – are very supportive of my ideas and have put their faith in me turn around their fortunes,” said Shebby.
Shebby is no stranger to Malaysian football, having captained the Kuala Lumpur team who won the Malaysia Cup three years in a row from 1987–89.
He also played for Malaysia for nine years, including featuring in three Asian Games (in 1982, 1986 and 1990) and was a member of the team who won the SEA Games gold medal when Malaysia were hosts in 1989.
Shebby also made his mark as a well-known football analyst and pundit with StarSports and ESPN.