The K-League's Foreign Coaches
|A recent K-League managers get together was notable for the absence of any foreign bosses in the top flight|
Uli's appointment in 2014 was a return to a preference for foreign coaches for the KFA after an almost 7-year spell of appointing local managers. Of course, the NT love affair with foreign managers can be traced back to the Hiddink era. Although he wasn't the first foreign NT boss (that accolade goes to Russian Anatoliy Byshovets who managed 13 games in '94-'95) his success was the catalyst for a string of foreign coaches including Humberto Coelho, Jo Bonfrere, Dick Advocaat and Pim Verbeek. Indeed, of 123 national team games played between 2001 and 2007 a Korean managed the team in only five of them.
|Uli Stielike is now the only high-profile foreign manager on the peninsula.|
The track record of foreign managers suggests clubs may have a point. Very few make it through two whole seasons in charge and, in fact, Martin Rennie's almost two years in-post makes him one of the longest serving foreign managers in K-League history (though this may have been helped by having 8 months without a match at the start of his reign). Despite all this there have been at least a handful of foreign managers who have left their mark on the K-League over the past few years so I thought it would be worthwhile taking a look back at some of the more notable coaching imports.
1. Sergio Farias (Pohang Steelers, 2005-2009)
His reign ended in slightly controversial circumstances however as he was given a one-year leave of absence to return to Brazil by Pohang. Rumours abounded that he had agreed a deal to move to the Middle East but these were strenuously denied by both the club and Farias who insisted it was his children's schooling that was his primary concern. He insisted that he would come back to Pohang in a year's time if the club wanted him, and then promptly signed a contract with Saudi club Al-Ahli.
Farias is currently coaching with Indian Super League club NorthEast United.
2. Ian Porterfield (Busan I'cons, 2003-2006)
Korea's first Scottish coach, Porterfield, also brought in former Aberdeen legend Drew Jarvie as his assistant and a smattering of other British names in the shape of strikers Jamie Cureton and Andy Cooke and defender Chris Marsden. The latter was quite a coup for the K-League but again things went sour as the former Southampton man quit the team a few weeks into the season having played only 2 matches (and scoring a goal)
His time in charge peaked with an FA Cup win in 2004, which remains Busan's last silverware. In 2005 Busan narrowly missed out on the title losing in the play-offs and also made it through to the quarter-finals of the ACL. Despite this, Porterfield was never really fully appreciated at Busan and left in 2006.
Sadly Porterfield passed away in 2007 following a battle with colon cancer.
3. Senol Gunes (FC Seoul, 2007-2009)
Despite three years in charge Gunes never quite managed to make the breakthrough of winning a trophy at Seoul - runners up medals in the league and K-League cup were the best he could manage - but he did manage to talk himself into trouble with the suits on occasion, usually due to a rant about referees.
After his spell with Seoul, Gunes returned to Turkey to manage and is now at Besiktas where he has just picked up the Super Lig title, his first championship win as a manager.
4. Ilija Petkovic (Incheon United 2009-2010; Gyeongnam FC, 2013)
Incheon have always had quite strong links with the Balkans and a number of high-profile K-League players from the region including Dejan Damjanovic and Dzenan Radoncic have come through their ranks initially, so it wasn't a huge surprise that they appointed a coach from the region.
He actually did a reasonably good job, taking Incheon up the table into a 5th place finish and into the Championship play-offs. In 2010, he resigned citing his wife's ill-health as a reason for wanting to return home but soon after signed a contract with Al Ahli in Qatar.
In 2013 Petkovic returned for a short spell in charge of Gyeongnam where he managed to avoid relegation although that feat has subsequently been tarnished by allegations of match-fixing.
5. Martin Rennie (Seoul E-Land 2015-2016)
Of course Rennie was no stranger to taking on brand new franchises having taken charge of Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS in 2011. Prior to that, his coaching experience had mostly been in the lower leagues of US soccer including spells at Cascade Surge, Cleveland City Stars and Carolina Railhawks.
In his spell in the MLS Rennie had brought in a number of Scottish and English players including Kenny Miller, Barry Robson and Nigel Reo-Coker but he decided against bringing any to Korea instead plumping for familiar faces from his MLS days in Ryan Johnson and Carlyle Mitchell.
His record at E-Land was 23 wins and 18 draws from 60 matches, a 38% win rate. Rennie was sacked this month after a poor start to the 2016 campaign.