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The Fall And Rise Of Joo Min-kyu

Joo Min-kyu is back. After looking like his 23-goal 2015 season was going to be a one-season wonder, our E-Land correspondent Steve Waddell reports that the striker has suddenly re-discovered his shooting boots.  

I don’t think it’s too much of a secret around these parts that I have a bit of a man-crush on Joo Min-kyu. After last season’s 23 goals (plus one in the All-Star Game just for good measure) it’s difficult not to. My #daehanminkyu shouts to include him in the national team might have gone unheeded by Uli Stielike but he remained a standout in the Challenge and I was genuinely shocked yet pleasantly surprised that he wasn’t poached by a bigger side during the close season.

2016 then, in theory, should have been a breakout season for him. Expectations were high no doubt but he had shown he was more than capable of scoring goals in the Challenge and even with increased competition for places with Tarabai and Jonatas Belluso he was still seen as very much the main man upfront for E-Land. To say that the first half of 2016 was a disappointment would be an understatement of epic proportions.

By the end of April, Joo had managed a solitary goal (against Goyang) from six games and things were starting to look increasingly shaky for both him and mentor Martin Rennie. This marked the start of a somewhat mysterious six-week absence for Joo and it’s still not fully clear whether this was the result of an injury, an enforced break to allow the striker to get his head straight and come back refreshed or just a good old-fashioned dropping by a manager trying to save his job. That Joo seemed to have been slightly off the pace for some time appeared to stem from on-going niggling injuries and it may simply be that management decided he needed a proper rest. The slightly mysterious circumstances of his disappearance from match day squads though left the nagging doubt in some quarters that there was more to it. Whatever the reasons, he made no further appearances for E-Land until the departure of Rennie in mid-June.

Even a change of manager couldn’t re-ignite Joo however. June and July came and went with nothing more to write home about than another goal against his former Goyang team-mates who were starting to look almost suspiciously charitable and a mixed bag of results for E-Land that saw them slipping further out of contention for the title and dangerously distant from even the play-off places. New boss Park Kun-ha brought in raft of new signings and it was increasingly looking as if the days of Joo-mes were well and truly over.

Two months later I am delighted to report that rumours of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. 10 goals in 11 games tells you all you need to know about his current run of form. These goals have been absolutely key in maintaining E-Land’s tentative hopes of making the final play-off place which has been freed up by the league’s questionable decision that the police team’s relocation is enough to deny them promotion. Without Joo’s contribution it’s likely that the season would already be over.

As to what has triggered the change in fortunes, it’s as much a mystery as the original dip in form. Perhaps the twinges in his legs have finally left him or perhaps whatever was clouding his head has been resolved. Like most goalscorers Joo is very much a confidence player, so it may simply be that a few goals have renewed his conviction that he can find the net in every game he plays.

For now, fans of E-Land might be best not to second guess the reasons and just enjoy the show. On his day, there are few to match Joo in the K-League Challenge and not too many in the Classic who can finish with the same precision. Joo-mes is back and long may it continue. Are you watching, Uli?

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