The #KLeagueFM17 Challenges: Citizens Unite! [Pre-Season '17 - Part Two]
Previous Instalments: Pre-season '16 [Part 1], Pre-season '16 [Part 2], March '16, April '16, May '16, June '16, July '16, August '16, September '16, Post-Split '16, FA Cup Final '16 [Preview], FA Cup Final '16, Pre-Season '17 [Part 1],
It’s certainly cold in the North Korean capital as I stand on the touchline of the cavernous Kim Il-sung stadium. We’ve just gone a goal down to Pyongyang City in front of a sparse yet vocal crowd and I am weighing up what the repercussions of changing things would be for me and the team on both sides of the border. A carefully worded team talk in the dressing room at half time seems to motivate my players though, as well as the introduction of defensive midfielder Park Byeong-hyun who had spent last season on loan at Bucheon, and we run out 3-1 victors much to the dismay of our hosts.
|Pyongyang City's opening goal, the only match photo not deleted by our guide. Not quite sure what our keeper was doing.|
Upon landing, I check my phone and see that my scout has come back with some reports from a trial day back in the South while we were away. Left back Kang Jin-ouk looks the stand out candidate, boasting previous stints at Seongnam and the 2012 Ulsan side that won the AFC Champions League. I request that a contract offer is sent over to him immediately and await his reply.
I persist with the 3-4-3 formation for our friendly, and it looks to be paying off as we find ourselves two goals up through the disgruntled Velkoski and last summer’s purchase Kainz with Park Dae-han and Song Si-woo providing assists respectively. We quickly concede to their striker Rondon who outpaces a back tracking defence onto a lob through ball and we enter the interval at 2-1.
I make some slight changes, but I really want to try and let my team play together for longer in this new formation. We score straight after kick-off when Song Si-woo turns provider once again for Jin Seong-wook to finish with ease. Five minutes later though and Fan Yunlong scores a replica goal to that of the one earlier by his teammate. Fan Yunlong and Rondon then combine, with the former converting the latter’s low cross to finalise the score at three apiece. It’s only a friendly so I do not go too heavy on the criticism. We need to be better drilled in defence though and hopefully my new acquisition will help to resolve that.
I land back in Incheon to both good and bad news. Whilst we have managed to sign Kang on a free transfer, he has been at the training ground for less than 24 hours before straining his back on the weights, ruling him out for five weeks. I won’t even be able to see him play until we have already started the season. Then again, it’s not like I will be the only K League club fielding players having hardly seen them play (which reminds me, I must see what calls my scout has been fielding from Brazilian second tier clubs in my absence).
Our next friendly sees the concluding part of our North Korean double-header, this time playing host to April 25. I set up the team in last season’s 4-2-3-1 with the slight adjustments I made for the FA Cup final, with the thinking that we won that game and it also accommodates our best remaining player Song Si-woo more. Prior to the game, I decide to have a root through my reserves to see what reasonable talent I have at my disposal and opt to promote Lee Hyo-gun (FW), Lee Joong-gwon (DF), and Lee Seung-woo (FW/ML – No, not that Lee Seung-woo!) to see what they can do.
It turns out to be quite a bit as we head into the break with a one goal lead thanks to Lee Hyo-gun. Some further introductions at half time see us run out 3-0 victors, with Park Se-jik scoring a free kick and penalty late on. The defence definitely looked more capable with four at the back it has to be said. After the game, Seongnam FC come in and loan out Lee Seung-woo, obviously mistaking him for his Barcelona namesake (a mistake they'll later make up for by loaning in that one too). I gladly accept in order to lower the season's wage budget.
As we await the arrival Guangzhou Evergrade in this erratic friendly schedule, I receive news that we have managed to offload high earners Kim Tae-su and Cho Byung-kuk, although the fee received will hardly see me opting for the imported beers in GS25 anytime soon. It does see us fall under the bulging budget however, so I decide to treat myself to a new centre back. Jeonbuk have transfer listed Kim Hyung-il at a knock-down price. That will do nicely.
|To be a K League ITK, you need to know yoga apparently|
As we navigate our way through our final remaining friendlies, drawing one and winning the other, my mind is preoccupied about the state of the squad that will remain come March. Quanjian are back and this time they want a promising reserve I have recently promoted, Lee Hyo-gun. He naturally throws a tantrum but I let him go to his dorm room to shout about it in there whilst I get on with proper work.
Quanjian aren't finished though and this time they go for Park Se-jik. I refuse this, leading them to increase their offer for the now disgruntled Lee, which I gladly accept. I would deem myself a savvy businessman, if only I planned any of this.
The final transfer out of the club shockingly sees Bae Seung-jin leaving against my wishes. One of our stand-out defenders last season is Ulsan bound for £130k because the board deem the offer too good to turn down. There's no option to protest this time. I only receive the news of his departure. There's not even a fleeting farewell.
As we approach the first round of fixtures, managers, bookies, a fan site not too far from here and a podcast start wheeling out their predictions for 2017. We have been touted at 1000-1 to win the title, with an expected finish of 10th.
Well, at least it isn't relegation!
You can read the next part here.
Also, why not revisit Steve Waddell's first season in charge of Seoul E-Land? You can start with part one here.