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Interview: Daegu FC Manager Son Hyun-Jun

Son being interviewed at local radio program (photo via DAEGU FC)
Not much is known about Daegu's new manager, Son Hyun-jun, who was recently promoted to full time manager from interim manager. He made an appearance at a local KBS radio station on December 3rd and below is an abridged English translation.  It's a nice opportunity to get to know the man in charge as Daegu head back to K-League Classic. 
For those interested, a full copy of the interview can be heard (in Korean) on YouTubeHere’s a brief profile and pathway of Son's career so far:
  • Born in 1972 in Busan
  •  Former defender with a goal from 170 appearances at professional level
  • As a player
    • 1995-1998 : Anyang LG
    • 1999 : Busan Daewoo royals
    • 2000-2003 : Anyang LG
  • As a coach
    • 2004-2005 : FC Seoul
    • 2007-2011 : Daegu FC
    • 2012-2014 : Gimhae City FC
    • 2015-2016 : Daegu FC

Announcer (A) : This is “Radio Guest Seat, You are the hero” at local KBS. Today, we have Daegu FC manger Son as a guest and will talk about his achievement of this season and his philosophy. Hello, Congratulations on your appointment.

Son (below S) : Thanks.

A : Let’s get started with your feelings to be a manager.

S : To be frank, I feel a bit embarrassed to become a manager in K-League Classic, which is very honorable and graceful. It would be awesome for Daegu and its fans to have a higher name-valued manager, not me who still needs to improve. I will do my best to make a good team for our loyal fans.

A : He told his feeling very modestly. This year, Daegu got great results and will be back in Classic after four years, and you were awarded best manager of the Challenge this year. What’s the secret behind this success?

S : Ashamed to call them secrets. Anyone would have made a great success. The player's condition and abilities were great. Daegu’s comeback to 1st division contributed to my ability to teach players very well. What I did was simply get highly-motivated players, I would say.

A : What was it like when you heard former manager Lee Young-jin stepped down from his job this August? How did you feel?

S : Recalling this August, I feel very sorry. I should have helped him more closely as an assistant and I feel his resignation was my fault. A decision to resign was made by him on his own, but I feel very sorry and belittled. However, all I saw was the eyes of our players staring at me, not the sweetness of being manager. I felt a tremendous responsibility to look after this team and get our team on the right track.

A : I suppose you might be busy bracing yourself for next season. I heard you were a professional footballer before managing. What made you start football?

S : I was persuaded to play football by a coach at primary school as everyone was. Looking back at my career, I suppose I wasn’t outstanding or talented, though. What I remember is always trying to do my best at the ground.

A : You were a competitive player. I was told you were one of the players who led your uni team (Dong-A University) to heyday with former Ulasn manager Yoon Jung-hwan, and Oh Kyung-suk. Also, you spent your whole career in FC Seoul and Busan. What was that like?

S : Looking back at my time as a player, I feel ashamed and regrettable. I think my physical ability was quite nice and strong, I didn’t bust a gut on techniques or something else. Our goal was to be a professional footballer and to make as many appearances as possible at that level. I think it was so stupid. I regret not having a big and detailed target while playing. I think I could have become a greater player if I had had more open eyes and mind or managers who could have given some advice. Of course my efforts were needed at first, I must admit. (smile)

A : So, such a regrettable experience would help Daegu players.

S : Yes, I believe this would be very helpful to players.

A : When did you start your career as a coach?

S : I played until 2003 and I was advised to be a coach by Cho Kwang-rae, manager of Anyang (now FC Seoul) at the age of 33.

A : I heard you have a unforgettable memory after becoming a coach. (smile)

S : Nobody is perfect and everyone goes through a tough time and hardship. For me, at the first step, I felt I was really short of becoming a good coach and having a philosophy for managing a team. At that time, I taught youth players such as Lee Chung-young (Crystal Palace), Ki Seung-young (Korean International), and Ko Myung-jin (Al Rayyan SC). After the first training, I cried for almost two hours on the rooftop because I found myself shameful. I was respectable as a player to them, not as a coach. I didn’t know what to do for the first exercise and felt I was not ready at all. In the cold light of day, I made up my mind to change myself to stand tall to them.

A : As I hear you, I dare say you are a natural manger. It is hard to find yourself short of ability. What changes have you made?

S : My football career was not as outstanding as other players and I didn’t make huge efforts as a player. But only two hours made me work hard and push myself to study a lot.

A : So you think you endeavored much when you were a player?

S : Absolutely, but I am still hungry. I’d like to attribute to this year’s success to just luck, not my ability.

A : What’s your main point in managing your players?

S : I think the title of professional guarantees some levels. But I believe a tiny change in thinking or behavior can make a huge difference and what I do is to get players to think for themselves and think outside of the box and change.
Daegu Manager, Son Hyun-Jun at radio station (photo via DAEGU FC)
A : Technique is one of the most important things, but mentality is even more important. Let’s change the subject. I was told you had a brief excursion to another job, but returned to football.

S : I did a part time job briefly. I had a year off after being in FC Seoul in 2005 with Lee Jang-soo, the current Chang-chun Yatai manager. For around four months, I studied football in Brazil and then moved to Germany to watch the World cup. For the rest of the year, I did physical labor at Guri agricultural market. I wasn’t born to neither a rich family, nor a humble family, I tasted the bittersweetness of life while doing the job. I woke up at half past five every morning and worked until six pm. It was a really tough and demanding job even though I was physically strong enough. I remember having a piece of bread, and hiding behind a truck from the other workers while working. Despite the hard work, most workers (including me) got paid very little. After that, I joined Daegu in 2007, but I usually recall that job when I feel frustrated. I think our job is quite less demanding compared to those ordinary people who do physical jobs. Moreover, we get paid much more than them. Compared to their efforts and intensity of labor, we shouldn’t think our job is very tough.

A : Daegu will be playing in K-League Classic next year, what kind of football would you like to show us?

S : Many managers say they will show offensive or compelling football. However, I wouldn’t promise to show you those kinds of football. I remember we came from behind to win 3-2 vs Bucheon. At that time, we had lost the two games before and we were losing 0-2 to Bucheon, so it could have extended our winless streak to three games. However, a miracle happened with 20 minutes left and I couldn’t believe it. When my eyes and ears were getting deaf and dull, I heard a small number of fans screaming out “We can do it, We can do it, We can do it”. The sound of their chant and banner which said “We can do it” gave us tremendous power to beat Bucheon. I believe what made this miracle come true is their limitless devotion and desperate sound from a few fans which must have cheered on our players. So I would like to make our team never ever give up no matter what.

A : Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I hope we have a great result in the upcoming year in Classic. Thank you for being with us again.

S : Thank you very much.

What are your thoughts on Son's interview? What would you like to see from him when he leads Daegu FC into K-League Classic next season? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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