The next leg – Singapore

Out of the frying pan, into the fire. An odd saying but it rings true here I think. I’m stepping into a club I know nothing about, a club that has been on a downward spiral ever since its inception a decade or so ago. I can’t wait to get stuck in, so lets get this show on the road!

The first thing I’m presented with is a report from my new assistant manager Mohd Suhaimi, who tells me that Omar Daud is our brightest youth prospect at center half, and Shaiful Esah is our best overall player at left back. Both look decent enough for this league and I expect both will have a part to play this season.

After reading through the team reports I’m greeted by a young nerdy looking guy, who tells me he is the clubs data analyst

‘Dmitri, based on last seasons stats, of all our shots at goal 20% of them were on target, of those shots on goal only 13% of those were turned into goals’

‘Right. Speak to me in basic terms please’

‘Basically, we need to be more lethal up front’

‘Right. What about defence’?

‘You mean lack of. We conceded worse than a goal per game as this club struggled again’

‘Got ya. So basically, we need to work on putting the ball in the net at 1 end of the pitch, and keeping the ball out of our net. I know just the player to help us keep the ball out. Thanks for your time’

As I walked to my office, I’m trying to myself I know 1 player I want to sign, and if reports in Malaysia are to be believed, he’s not best pleased I got sacked.

I make the call


‘Carlos, it’s Dmitri, how are ya?’

‘Boss! Yeah am fine, pissed off with how you were treated though. The new guy doesn’t seem all that good. How are you?’

‘Good Carlos, I’m good. Look I know this may be seen as tapping up, but it’s not. You don’t have an agent so I’m asking, I’m going to be going in with a bid for you, and as you’re out of contract next season I think we’ll be able to get you for a minimal fee, that’s if joining me here would appeal to you?’

‘Boss, are you for real? Of course I’ll come to Singapore, this club’s not the same without you here. Put the offer in, I’ll sign today!’

‘Patience Carlos. These things take time. As soon as we can we’ll sit down and get the deal sorted. Speak soon’

The offer goes in. A trusted comrade and I’m sure he’ll win this team points on his own. Now I just need to assess the team before making any moves.

Training. Day 2.

Just as training finishes my phone rings, it’s my friend and assistant Ilja

‘What’s up Ilja?’

‘You’re never going to believe this, but DPMM, they’re a team in Singapore, their manager has left’

‘DPMM? Hmm, where do I recognise that team from?’

‘That documentary in your flat last year, it was where Steve Kean was managing’

‘Ahh yes, now I remember. So their manager leaving, why does that concern me?

‘Well, the name being touted by the press to take over is Steve Kean!’

‘Haha, really? Oh good, I hope he does go there, it’ll be very intersting’

I get back to my office and start making calls. The offer for Carlos is in, the contract is there he’s just waiting for Penang to do the process their end, it’s a done deal just about. Now I need to make sure the defence in front of him is solid, I speak to a number of agents and people within the league and sign defenders Helmi Mohamad, Rusyaidi Salime and box to box fielder Jake Barker-Daish, all 3 of who will be starters.

The next day the fixture list is announced, along with pre season predictions

We’re playing the champs and Hougang’s former manager in our first game. We’re also predicted to finish 6th this season, which is a 1 place improvement on where this club finished last season

Before we get the season underway I confirm to the board that I am aiming for a top half finish and to be competitive in the cups. As well as that the singing of Carlos Espinoza is confirmed!

Pre match Press conference

‘You take charge of your first game tomorrow, are you excited about managing in Singapore?’

‘Yes I can’t wait, everything is set up to go, I’m confident of getting a win tomorrow’

‘As for this club itself, they’ve struggled haven’t they. Are you the man to turn things around?’

‘I don’t want to talk about the past, it’s a new beginning for me, the club, the fans everyone connected with Hougang. If I can make my mark here and win something then I can be happy with that, but I’m not getting ahead of myself, I will keep expectations to a realistic level’

‘What is your feeling after singing Carlos Espinoza? Will he start tomorrow?’

‘I’m absolutely delighted to have signed Carlos again. He was a rock for us at Penang last season and I am confident he will be a key player here this season. He was bought to be in the first team and that is exactly where he’ll be’

‘Are you concerned the Penang fans are unhappy with this transfer?’

‘As much as I feel for their fans, the new manager made it clear to Carlos he wasn’t wanted, he wanted to bring his own team in which is understandable, and personally after the way the board acted with me I don’t care what anyone at Penang thinks of me or this transfer. I will have the last laugh. Thank you that’s all for today’

On my way out of the press room, I get a notification on my phone

Well well well, this is interesting. It was just speculation but he’s actually gone back. Well now I definitely can’t wait to play DPMM. Our rivalry continues.

The first game of the new season is here, and I can’t wait to get stuck in. Whilst I’m only looking to improve the clubs 7th place finish last year, I would like a decent cup run but realistically, it’s all about building towards improvement, baby steps if you will.

We’ve got the champs first, and their new manager is who I replaced here. If there’s a good test to start off with, its Home United.

Next episode – Can we hit the ground running?

Previous episode – What happens next….

What happens next….

‘He deserved to be sacked, he over promised and under delivered’ – Those are the words of Sarawak manager Steve Kean as the news comes out of Penang that they have sacked their manager Dmitri Tarasov after he failed to deliver on his promise of promotion. Speculation persists on who will replace him, we’ll keep you updated.

As I watch the news on my telly, I sat in my living room, thinking what do I do next? A failed Sunday league footballer sacked from his first management job. Was I too naive to think we wouldn’t get promoted? Was I too confident in the team’s ability to see it through? We had a couple of draws in the run that we dominated the games and if 1 of our chances had gone in, we’d have been promoted.

What was my downfall? I don’t want to think it’s my ability that hindered us, we had some bad luck along the way. Either way whatever the reason is, it just wasn’t meant to be this season. My phone rang just then..


‘So you got sacked, don’t worry about it, this is part and parcel of the life of a football manager. Look at Steve Bruce, he always gets sacked yet ends up in another job, same with Fat Sam and Alan Pardew. Keep your head up’

‘Who is this? Is this the guy that sorted out the deals for Katende and Carlos?’

‘Yes, your guardian angel. Listen, keep your ear to the ground, there’s going to be an opening very soon, like today that you should put your name in for. It’s not a massive club but somewhere you can make your mark’

‘Really, where at?’

‘Remember what I said Dmitri, just put your name out there, the jobs yours’


Who is that? He always rings and leaves these messages, but he’s always been right so far. I put the telly on and I switch the channel to Astro Supersport who cover football in Asia, there’s a reporter standing outside the ground of Hougang United who play in Singapore

‘That’s right, the manager of Hougang Saswadimata Dasuki has made the move to league champions Home United, this is despite another poor season for Hougang who finished a disappointing 7th in the league. Home United manager Vincent Subramaniam has retired from football after leading the club to the league championship. Either way Dasuki has landed on his feet as he leaves a struggling team and takes over a championship winning side at Home United. News from around the league suggests Hougang are keeping their cards close to their chest on potential replacements, with rumours coming out that the chairman has identified 1 leading candidate for the job who he wants to bring in. More on this as we get it’

As soon as I hear that there’s an opening in Singapore I get straight on the phone


‘Ilja, it’s Dmitri. Can you make the media aware of my interest in the Hougang job?’

‘1 step ahead of you pal, I’ve already circulated your name to the media.’

‘Wow, cheers. How did you know I’d be interested in that job?’

‘I’ve known you all my life, I know you better than you know yourself. Plus it’s the perfect opportunity for you, small club in a lower rep league, not too big ambitions and when you achieve success there your stock will increase. Plus I think it’s the ideal place to building your rep’

‘Cheers man. Just another question, you didn’t ring me earlier did you?’

‘What, no you just rang me?’

‘Oh okay, no worries, speak soon’

The next day a report from the Singaporean Football Gazette ran with my name being touted as the favourite for the job. As I made my way to the gym in near my apartment in Penang, I’m asked about the speculation

‘Look I’m happy to be considered for the role, and I am definitely on the lookout for another management position, but the club has to be right and I have to be right for the club. Saying that you can take this a confirmation that I am interested in taking over at Hougang’

The next 2 days went by without anything of note happening. I kept thinking about getting sacked from Penang, thinking about my tactics and if I should concentrate on other formations, I rewatched a lot of the matches we played last year to try and figure out what I could’ve done better. Just then the phone rang with a number I don’t recognised calling


‘Dmitri, my name is Bill, I am the chairman of Hougang United. Can we meet?’

The interview

‘I can assure you that any promises I made at Penang were made with the intention of being met, we had a squad that was good enough to win the league, there were 2 stupid games against the bottom 2 that we just didn’t score, we did absolutely everything but in both games we just couldn’t convert’

‘I understand that, I’m not even concerned about you over promising, I thought you did the right thing. My only concern is how would you feel taking over a team that, let me be blunt, is poor. We’ve not won a single competition and have struggled for a long time?’

‘It will bring the best out in me. I know my track record of promises isn’t too good, but I promise I won’t leave this club of my own accord until I’ve won something here. That trophy cabinet is dying to be filled’

‘I like that attitude. Let me go away, speak to the rest of the board and I’ll come back to you shortly’

That interview felt more like an informal chat. As far as interviews go that was probably the easiest I’ve ever had. It’s all of 2 hours later that the phone rings..

‘Dmitri, welcome aboard’

Hougang United

Well here I am in Singapore. Hougang to be precise. This is a club that has only been around since 2010 and has won absolutely nothing in that time but has been runners up 3 times in the league cup.

Last season they recorded another 7th (out of 9) place finish, winning 6 games all year

This poor performance can be summed in by 1 player, apparent star man Jang J-Yoon who is a natural center forward, yet played all season at center half last year

At 31 he is someone I’d like to keep around next season, so I arrange a meeting with him.

‘Jang, hi, I’m the new first team manager Dmitri Tarasov’

‘Hi Dmitri, look I’m not going to waste either of our time here, I want out of this club, I’ve grown to hate it, I hate being here and I’m leaving when my contract runs out at the end of the month’

Well that went worse than I had imagined. Good riddance, I don’t want players here that don’t want to be, this is a new start, and trust me I’ll have the last laugh.

This brings an end to an eventful couple of weeks. I got sacked by Penang, then the mysterious guy rang me and told me I’m lined up for another job, then I get offered that job and here I am in Singapore, looking to continue to build my rep.

It might not be pretty, but by hook or by crook, before long they will know the name Dmitri Tarasov!

Next episode – The next leg – Singapore

Previous episode – The day after (mini-sode)