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

‘Hello?’

‘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….

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The first game

Penang v UiTM

Here it is then, my very first game as a football manager. Am I nervous, yes. Am I afraid of what might happen if we get absolutely battered, yes. Am I excited, HELL YES!

As soon as the game starts we’re on them in a flash, so quick actually as Kang Seung-Jo gets the ball edge of the box and lets fly…

Top corner, 2 keepers wouldn’t have saved that! 34 seconds in and I couldn’t have wished for a better start!

Around half hour played and we’re given a penalty, and a chance to increase the lead. Up steps Seung-Jo…


Straight down the keepers throat! Anywhere else and it would’ve been 2-0. Oh well we go again.

Ten minutes later and that man Seung-Jo is played in on the edge of the box again

And hits a first time shot…

Bottom corner this time, 2-0 and we’re looking good going in at half time dominating and winning

My half time team talk consisted of telling the boys how happy I am and to keep it tight, they’re probably going to come at us in the second half.

Which they didn’t actually, and we ran out comfortable winners in the end. A perfect game, despite the penalty miss. We looked really good in this game, hopefully a sign of things to come.

Not only that but Steve Kean lost his first game as Sarawak boss. Today’s been a good day.

Post match press conference

The clubs press officer Phoebe Singh is present as I don’t speak Malay, and she speaks English, Malay & Russian.

‘What did he say?’ I ask her.

‘‘The guy from the Malaysian football Gazette asks – Dmitri, a win in your first game you must be pleased with a performance as impressive as that?’

‘Tell him yes I’m very pleased and looking forward to the next game, maybe chuck a joke in there for good measure’

She speaks in Malay, and what I think is the punch line to the joke gets no reaction from the journalists. Phoebe then says ‘The man from Goal.com wants to know what your aims are, short and long term’

‘Thanks, tell him he must be blind or stupid not to see our short term aim is survival, long term we’ll wait and see’

She repeats what I said, I think, or maybe something else as the guy that asked the question stands up, shouts something at me that I don’t understand and storms out.

‘He doesn’t like you’

‘I gathered that, any more questions?

‘No, no more today Dmirti’

‘Thanks Phoebe’

3 days later we’re up against UKM, and I have a meeting with the team to discuss how we’re going to tackle this one

‘Right lads, that 2-0 win is just what we needed, lets build on this and claw our way to safety. What do you say? ‘Hows that sound?’ I asked the translator, who is also our player liaison officer to ask my assistant Karupiah

‘Good, do you want me to tell him to tell the team word for word?

‘Yeah why not.’

He speaks to my assistant, who in turn speaks to the players.

Silence. Literally nothing.

‘I think they’re all on board boss’ the translator says with a slight smirk on his face.

‘Shut up’

I’ve got some work on here convincing this lot to follow my lead. The problem I have is I’ve come here to try and stop this club from suffering back to back relegation’s and morale is low. Not only that but I’m an unknown manager so already the support from the squad is really low. In the tactical briefing I tell the lads to go out and carry on where they left off from the last game. No response form anyone. This could be tough.

We set up with the same line up and formation as last time and I really could do with another win here, especially in front of our home fans. For whatever reason the team kept giving away silly fouls and despite dominating shots and having slightly more of the ball we never really threatened their goalkeeper. A bore draw but a silver lining being we didn’t lose, and that should be seen as a good sign for a team that’s used to losing.

With the draw my first month as a manager ends, and I’m undefeated in all of my games here, well all 2 of them but you get the point. We end the month out of the drop zone for now. Onward and upward an all that….

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Next episode – Steve Kean, we meet for the first time

Previous episode – How to become a football manager