Midfield star Tam to quit Eastern
EASTERN have been dealt a severe blow on the eve of tomorrow's FA Cup final against Happy Valley at the Hong Kong Stadium with news that star midfielder Tam Siu-wai is to leave the club.
Tam, 23, said his sixth season with Eastern would be his last - but he refused to reveal which club he would be joining.
His contract ends on June 30 and Tam said he would not be signing a new deal with the Hong Kong champions.
The favourites for his signature are Instant-Dict, runners-up to Eastern in the First Division championship and in the Challenge Shield and losing finalists against South China in the Viceroy Cup.
With massive financial support from the company, Instant are believed to have offered Tam a two-year contract worth $1 million, making him the highest paid local player in the history of the professional game in Hong Kong.
Tam has also been linked with a move to South China, who are looking to sign a top quality midfield player in the continued absence through injury of their playmaker, Leslie Santos.
Hong Kong international midfielder Tam said last night that one of the reasons he wanted to leave Eastern was that he could not improve as a player under coach Chan Hung-ping.
''I am not doing as well as I did last season because I am not being pushed hard enough by the coach,'' said Tam.
To be fair to Eastern and the team he is to join, Tam said he would inform both clubs of his expected salary after tomorrow's FA Cup final.
While refusing to disclose the name of the club he is set to join, Tam said they were able to meet his financial demands.
The Eastern management are known to be unhappy with Tam's handling of the affair. When negotiations on a new contract began last month, Eastern asked Tam to name his price.
When the club agreed to meet Tam's demands, the player then said another club had offered him a better deal, thought to be worth around $46,000 a month.
Tam, who was married last September, is going to be a father in mid-July. He said this was another reason why he wanted to sign for another club - to earn more money to raise his family.
The all-action midfielder has been an integral part of Eastern's rise to the top of Hong Kong football over the past two seasons.
With his skipper, Lee Kin-wo, on the right wing, Ross Greer on the left and Dale Tempest up front, Tam has fitted in well with his passing and running from midfield.
When Eastern won the league, the Shield and the FA Cup last season, Tam scored seven goals.
This season he has scored nine times as Eastern retained the Shield and the league title and have the chance to complete a second successive treble with the FA Cup final tomorrow.
If Instant sign Tam, Steve Berry is set to be moved up front alongside 17-goal striker Graham Harvey, with Tam joining Sean Edwards in the centre of midfield.
Instant boss Thomas Tam has released 18-goal leading scorer Ian McParland and is looking to sign an overseas goalkeeper.
Meanwhile, Sing Tao may lose their blond-haired midfielder David Clarkson because he is unhappy with the club's style of play.
Clarkson, who is under contract to play for the Tigers next season, said yesterday he was trying his best to escape from the team - and was even considering buying out his own contract.
''I am not saying I want to leave because the team's results are not as good as expected but I have to admit I really enjoyed my time with Happy Valley last season and with the Hong Kong national team for the Hong Kong-Guangdong Cup,'' said the former Brighton midfielder.
''Their style suits mine.'' Clarkson is now negotiating with a local First Division team and is ready to pay at least $50,000 to terminate his contract.
In other news, the Hong Kong Football Association have scrapped plans to send their Asian Games squad to a training camp in Europe. Instead the squad will go to Malaysia towards the end of July.