Kean leaves DPMM FC with heavy heart

|    Fadhil Yunus    |

DPMM FC outgoing head coach Steve Kean has opened up on his gratitude and admiration to the people of Brunei in a farewell message, especially to supporters, after his four-year spell in charge of the Brunei club came to an end.

Kean, who parted ways with the club last month at the end of the Great Eastern-Hyundai S League season, will leave the Sultanate today in time to attend the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia on December 1.

“First of all, the fans at the games have been fantastic. But more than that, the fans on the street when I’ve been in Bandar or Gadong, people stop and every message that I have ever received from all the fans have always been positive,” said Kean in an exclusive interview with the Bulletin at the Jerudong Mini Stadium yesterday.

“I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart because I really feel that it’s been positive and that helps me and then in turn that helps the players. A big thank you to the fans and I’m really proud that they were there the night when we brought the first title home.

“The stadium was full and the atmosphere was amazing. That’s something I’ll never forget and that’s something the fans will never forget,” continued the Scotsman.

“We changed the way we were playing so then people were stopping us on the streets and said thanks and you really make us proud when we watch our team playing now.

“The Brunei people have such a lovely nature as a nation. But I think what was good was the football I brought and the proudness of being all together.

DPMM FC outgoing head coach Steve Kean. – FADHIL YUNUS

“Many times when they stopped me I’m very thankful for that. That will always stick in my mind.

“I’m leaving with a heavy heart. It’s an amazing country. I wanted to personally thank members of the Royal Family for inviting me here and that’s something I’m proud of as well,” the former Blackburn Rovers FC manager added.

“I managed to bring the club forward and like the Chairman said to me before, could I help the club grow up… and in the last four years, we have grown up.”

Over the years, Kean has overseen the steady rise of players which could help them translate their performances to the national team.

“We have brought under-19 players which we set up last year. There have also been local players that came into the team and it shows the local players out there can play at a very high level.

“Sometimes players enter a stage of development a little bit later like (Hazwan) Hamzah or Mimit (Haizul Rani) this year. It shows that the door is never closed, especially for the young players.

“When the young players come in, sometimes it can be a little bit daunting. They see the intensity of the training.

“But first of all, it’s a step-up to go there and play in the Singapore League. Hopefully, they can go and represent the country and that is another stage (to be) playing international football.

“That’s where any young player should come in. First of all, the player should try to establish as a professional player. And the next goal should be to represent the first team and the next goal is to represent the country when they get the chance.

“I’m proud the older players have improved technically and tactically and hopefully they can continue to improve and represent the country.”

The head coach added that it is an incredible moment in a player’s career to be called up for their international debut and expressed his hopes that more players from the club will be able to represent the country.

Asked how the team developed since taking the reins in the 2014 season, Kean said the club has now embraced a particular style of play.

“Now the club has a style of play. I think at first we didn’t really know if we should be sitting off and defending and counterattacking or should we be just play an open game, or should we be trying to get possession of the ball.

“Now what everybody sees is we try and dominate the ball. We’re trying to have more possession than the opposition. We’re always trying to attack and we’re not a team trying to score one goal and then park the bus.

“We want to bring excitement and expansive football. We’re always trying to score goals and we’re always pushing our fullbacks on.

“I’m trying to give the fans an exciting brand of football and most of the time we did that.”

During his time with the club, Kean helped change the mentality of the local players on moving away from the reliance of foreign imports who are commonly seen to be the ones driving the club forward.

Kean has prioritised local players than foreign imports looking at his team selection in league matches this season and does not choose foreign players, leaving the management the role in that aspect of recruitment.

The head coach has set the stage for local players the opportunities to perform at a high level with Azwan Ali Rahman a fair example as one of the leading lights in his championship-winning team in 2015.

Kean improved the level of football of the local players to an extent which made them as clear threat to S League opposition.

The former S League Coach of the Year has shown the belief that local players can perform at a very high level by naming a majority of the locals in the starting line-up especially this year.

He has also promoted under-19 players to the first team while setting the platform for fringe players to establish themselves as first-team regulars through his transparent managerial style.

“There was a mentality at first that the local players will look at the imports and hope that they’re good because they’re going to pull us through. I don’t think that happens now. Now, the standards and the expectations of the local players are higher about themselves.

“If an import is injured and not selected, it doesn’t matter because we’re good enough to play and good enough to win. And that’s a mental aspect to the game. They’re all improved and they now know they’re good players and that is very important.”

He also saw the potential of DPMM FC captain Rosmin Kamis as the next trainer for the national team and has already put him in charge of leading the warm-up during the training sessions in a move to shoulder some responsibilities.

He accepted a friendly match with the Brunei national youth team which DPMM FC emerged 7-1 winners and eventually that inspired the national youth team to win a game in Kuching.

Kean has also been scheduled to meet FIFA President Gianni Infantino and FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura during the side-lines of the FIFA World Cup final draw in Moscow.

The head coach, who will be representing the club until the end of the year, will be hoping that talks of arranging a symposium on football in Brunei could be made a reality.

The former Premier League manager also believes that the national team could shoot into 150th place in the FIFA world rankings.

Kean was linked with a number of clubs during his spell with DPMM FC but chose to stay because he held a strong belief about the local players as shown by his desire to see them grow to greater heights.

In his eyes, the Brunei national team is the fifth best Southeast Asian team behind Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia who are on the same par and Vietnam fourth best.