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2018 Season Preview: Bucheon FC 1995

Bucheon is Back! Again. Having lost their top scorer and needing to rebuild much of the squad before the 2017 season, they now have to do exactly the same in 2018. Can they finish just one place higher this time and make the play-offs? 
(image via author)

Last Season
W15-D7-L14, 5th in K-League Challenge


What Happened?

A year ago, Bucheon went into the season with their main striker having departed along with practically the entire defence and under a new manager taking charge of a professional club for the very first time. They did well without ever finding much in the way of consistency and were in the hunt for a second consecutive appearance in the play-offs right until the very end of the season. However, just one point from the final two matches left Bucheon in 5th place, missing out by a point and a handful of goals.


Notable Moves

1. Willian Popp for Waguininho – Last year the big question was how to fill the Lukian-shaped hole that opened up when the club's 2016 top-scorer upped sticks to Busan. The answer was already at the club as Waguininho stepped up with 12 goals earning himself a move to a cashed-up Suwon Bluewings in the process. Rodrigo Parana, who hit double figures in both 2015 and 2015 made a brief return in the second half of 2017 but moved on to the Thai League at the end of the season. And so, Bucheon have turned to Willian Popp, who scored 18 goals in 38 matches in the Challenge for Busan in 2016. The 25-year-old spent the 2017 season at Avispa Fukuoka where he was, to put it mildly, less prolific. He’s proven in this league though.  

2. The curious case of Nan Song - One of the more eye-catching – not to mention confusing - sagas of the close season is that involving China Under-23 international Nan Song. Of Korean descent, he is a product of Yanbian FC’s youth academy but apparently never signed a professional contract with them, instead inking a deal with Bucheon, of all clubs, in 2016. Nan Song then went back to China trialing at Super League side Chongqing Lifang and impressing enough to win a one-year loan deal. But on loan from who? Yanbian claim they own him but so do Bucheon, which is to where he has supposedly returned to be given squad number 28 for the forthcoming season. Yanbian have taken it to Fifa’s “Dispute Resolution Chamber” but Bucheon are adamant he is their player. Nan Song is a midfielder with 27 CSL games under his belt, scoring three goals along the way. He played in all three of China’s matches at the AFC Under-23 Championship in January and he could be an excellent prospect in K League 2.

3. Kim Shin’s gone – It was a bit of a surprise that Kim Shin didn’t go straight to a top division club a year ago, but he has now, joining up with newly promoted Gyeongnam. He perhaps didn’t score as many as might have been expected but he is a K1 quality player and was involved in most of Bucheon’s best work in 2017. With Kim and Waguininho leaving, it means Bucheon are missing both their two most exciting players from last year and they will be hard to replace.


Needs

Last year it was the whole defence that needed to be replaced, this time around with Cho Bum-seok and Cho Soo-chul both away to serve with the Police in Asan, there have been midfield holes to fill but Coach Jang Gap-suk looks to have put together a balanced team.  Lee Hyeon-seong has re-joined on a free from Daejeon, having last played for Bucheon in 2015. Jang has added a number of squad players from University and lower league teams and has turned to another former Daejeon player to help rebuild that midfield. Hwang Jin-san last appeared in the K-League in 2014 and has since turned out for semi-pro Pocheon Citizen and N-League Gimhae City. He’s only 28 and he gets another chance in the professional ranks. To be sure, this isn't a side that's going to challenge for automatic promotion but it is one that should be winning as many games as it loses and can be firmly in the hunt for a place in the play-offs.


Key Player 

Jin Chang-soo

At this or any other level, if you’ve got a striker who can get you 15+ goals in a season, you’ll not go far wrong. Willian Popp has done that before in this league at Busan and if he can repeat, Bucheon will do well. 

However, it’s a huge bonus to have a midfielder who not only anchors the team but also weighs in with regular goals and in Jin Chang-soo, Bucheon have exactly that. He’s spent most of his career in the National League or K2 and was picked up by Bucheon from the remnants of Goyang Zaicro ahead of the 2016 season. In the two terms since Jin has been an almost ever-present scoring 7 and 9 goals respectively and if he and fellow stalwart and club Captain Moon Ki-han can maintain that kind of consistency in 2018, Popp can concentrate on scoring goals and Bucheon will be in with a shout of the playoffs. 

Biggest Question 

Will Bucheon’s fans manage to go an entire season without getting the club in trouble?

On the pitch the question is simple: will the new players gel with the old to an extent that they’ll score enough goals to launch a serious play-off challenge? Bucheon are unlikely to be able to compete with the likes of Suwon, who look set to have a big season, but they should finish ahead of plenty. Instead, we’ll look off the field and while having got up and created their club after SK moved to Jeju and then slogged loyally around K3 grounds for years, the Bucheon fans who have been there from the beginning are worthy of respect. They aren’t always the best behaved though. 

Any money the club earned for the FA Cup run in 2016 was cancelled out by the fines for the fireworks the fans brought to Sangam while at the home game against Gyeongnam last season there was a mini-pitch invasion followed by the visitors’ bus being blocked in for 2 hours afterwards. That resulted in another fine and their game with Asan being played behind closed doors (yes yes, it’s K2, did anyone notice?). Further, Bucheon permanently closed the temporary stand they had set up right behind the goal and the fans are now back the other side of the running track. Bucheon have once again awarded "Hermes" the number 12 in their squad list but is there any chance the Bucheon fans can just restrict their antics to the liberal use of naughty words this time round?


Reason to Watch

Let’s face it, there is no more or less reason to watch Bucheon than any other K-League 2 team. Although they have a Coach who generally tries to play attractive football, it doesn't always work out like that and they play in an empty bowl of a stadium with a running track between the stands and the pitch. The location, however, halfway between Seoul and Incheon makes double-headers with games in those cities possible at certain times of year and the subway station right by the main gate makes it easy to attend at any time. The atmosphere outside the ground is generally pleasant with tables and chairs (and beer). In Spring, the little mountain behind the stadium is covered in cherry blossoms. Tickets are only 8,000Won.


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