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Interview: Daegu FC Reserve Team Manager Luis Manuel Hernandez

Interview: Daegu FC Reserve Team Manager Luis Manuel Hernandez
Daegu FC finished the 2018 season off with their first ever trophy win after the Sky Blues hammered Ulsan Hyundai 5-1 on aggregate in a showcase FA Cup Final. Many of the plaudits were sent in the direction of manager Andre’s and the Brazilian's coaching ability, not to mention big names such as Cesinha, Edgar and Jo Hyunwoo. However, Daegu FC Correspondent Muyeol Jung sat down with an important member of Andre's backroom staff, namely Reserve Team Manager Luis Manuel Hernandez to talk about his experience, thoughts on Korean football and Daegu FC.
(image via Daegu FC)

Muyeol Jung: Can you tell us more about your early football career before you come to Daegu?

Luis Manuel Hernandez: I was a semi-professional footballer in the second division in Spain. I was a creative midfielder like Bastian Schweinsteiger or Xabi Alonso. I was good at long passes, set plays and keeping it simple. I also had trials for Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, but never signed with them because of injuries. While I was playing in the second division in Spain at age of 19, I tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Afterwards, it was very hard to become as fit as I used to be and so at 25 years-old, another injury ultimately made me hang up my boots for good.

MYJ: How did you take the first step into football coaching?

LMH: After the first injury, football was no longer bread and butter for me. I started to study in university and became a physical fitness coach. When I was 25 years old, I got injured again and had to stop playing anymore following the doctor’s diagnosis. Next, I finished my studies in university and became a coach. Five years later, I became a professor for football coaches in Spain. Also I worked as a teacher for students aged 12 to 14.

In the meantime, from 2011 to 2014, I worked as a technical director at a football academy operated by FC Barcelona. Afterwards, I started to look abroad. In 2014, luckily, I became an assistant coach at Al Yarmoulk SC in Kuwait, one year after, I became the team's full-time manager.

MYJ: How was your experience over there?

LMH: It was amazing. Working at professional level outside of the country you are accustomed to was something different. Speaking a different language, experiencing a different climate and cultures - everything I experienced was amazing.

The following a year, as soon as I became a full time manager, I brought in some Spanish coaches into the club: an assistant coach, physical coach, and a goalkeeper coach. It was like small sized-Spanish community. Unfortunately, I was unable to continue my career in Kuwait after the Middle East country faced two years sanctions imposed by football governing body, FIFA for meddling football with politics.

MYJ: Can you tell us how you were in touch with Daegu?

LMH: Following my two years in Kuwait, I was relaxing in my hometown in the Canary Islands. In the meantime, someone from Daegu offered me one-year deal. At the time, I was not sure about the deal, but as soon as I got to know more details, I made up my mind to come and help the club with the development of young players for the first team.

Interview: Daegu FC Reserve Team Manager Luis Manuel Hernandez
(image via Daegu FC)

MYJ: What’s your coaching philosophy?

LMH: Due to a variety of my experiences in many football fields, I was able to see many different perspectives on football. I think the most important thing is that players need to understand football and what they are supposed to do on the pitch. Generally, players are passive agents, being taught and instructed by their coaches to do something. However, players are not robots, but human beings as I am. Therefore, it’s a coach’s job to get them to understand their roles. In order to do this, coaches need to be as smart as players are, not too bossy.

Players and coaches are working together but it’s not coaches who actually play and score on the pitch; coaches only exist to help players. So, both have to be in close contact with each other so they can communicate and interact in a positive way. At Daegu, I always try to have as much time as possible with players, having meals, or a cup of tea off the pitch.

Besides, in terms of match management, I like taking an offensive approach. I think football is all about scoring as many goals as we can to win. I reckon 4-2, 3-2 wins are better than 2-0 or 1-0 wins in second division or under 18 level, so that you can enjoy football as well as work on some some tactical experiments as a manager.

MYJ: What’s your impression on Korean Football?

LMH: Before I come to Korea, I remember watching Korean National Team’s games a few times and I thought Korean teams had been doing really well since what was such a great achievement in 2002 World Cup. Korean football has a very strong mentality and strong players. But I would say, if they had had a better understanding of football, they would have been a better team.

Interview: Daegu FC Reserve Team Manager Luis Manuel Hernandez
(image taken by Daegu FC Correspondent Muyeol Jung)

MYJ: You are the first reserve team manager in Daegu FC. Do you know this?

LMH: No, I didn’t. I am glad that I am the first, but I hope I won’t be the last ever in the club.

MYJ: Daegu Reserve Team finished the Reserve League in the second position on the table. All things considered, are you satisfied with the result?

LMH: Yes, I am happy with this and so is the club. To be honest, we could have been the first on the table if we had a bit of luck. Because, sometimes, I had to come out to the pitch with only 14 players.

The purpose of running Reserve Team over the season is to give youngsters or sidelined players match experience and build up their ability from the bottom. In retrospect, I helped the first team with a couple of players who no longer train with me. Kim Daewon, Jung Seungwon, Jang Sungwon, and Kang Yoonku were all with me until the World Cup break, but they eventually broke into the first team and never trained with me since then, which is good. From what I have seen on training ground, they practiced every day and paid attention to the game. I think their hard work behind the scenes has paid off now.

MYJ: Do you often have a time with first team staff on and off the pitch?

LMH: Yes, we usually spend some time together, casually and formally to discuss anything regarding better football. Once Oh Gwangjin was injured in the first half of this season, I strongly recommended Kang Yoonku to Daegu first team Manager, Andre, because I had very strong faith in him from what I had seen throughout my time working with him.

MYJ: Daegu FC are investing a lot of money on young players under Mr. Cho’s regime compared to previous seasons. What do you think is needed to become more successful?

LMH: I think Daegu are going through historic moment in their history. We are set to move to a brand-new football stadium and club house is under the construction as planned. It is very important to have a good coach for youngsters and make the club more attractive to other players.

At this time, Daegu’s plans for the future is very well organised under club’s president Cho Kwangrae. By the time I got an offer from Daegu, I searched him on the Internet and I found him to be very smart and fascinating. He is not only a truly legendary manager, but also very an ambitious leader. I am looking forward to working with him at this club.

Interview: Daegu FC Reserve Team Manager Luis Manuel Hernandez
(image via Daegu FC)

MYJ: What’s your goal in your career?

LU: If I find a good youth project, I will try to help a team that needs me anywhere in the world as long as their projects look good. I am ready for any challenge.

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