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News: Cho Sung-hwan Steps Down, Choi Yun-kyum Named as His Replacement

News: Jeju United Manager Cho Sung-hwan Steps Down, Choi Yun-kyum Named as His Replacement
Cho Sung-hwan voluntarily stepped down from his post as manager of Jeju United on Thursday afternoon, and Choi Yun-kyum has been named as his replacement.  Jeju's struggles under Cho in the past ten months have been well documented, and he cited stress due to poor results as a major factor in his decision to step aside.  While his tenure on the Jeju bench did not end well, he is responsible for a great deal of the club's success in recent years.  KLU's Branko Belan has a closer look at Cho's accomplishments and pitfalls, and previews what to expect from the new man in charge.

Jeju have started poorly in 2019, winless after nine rounds in the league with four draws and five losses to this point.  Despite bringing in reinforcements in the winter transfer window, things have yet to click this year, and, it prompted a change on the bench, as Cho Sung-hwan announced on Thursday afternoon that he would be stepping away from the club.  While he endured enormous struggles due to a lack of results dating back to last July, it is noteworthy to mention what he has done for the club as well.

Jeju finished third after the 2016 season, their best placing in the league since 2010, earning them a spot in the AFC Champions League, where they reached the Round of 16, the first time in the club's history that they had reached the knockout phase of the competition.

Jeju followed that up with an even better season in 2017, finishing runners-up in a season punctuated by a twelve match unbeaten run, which saw them on the brink of challenging for the league title before being beaten by eventual champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the Championship Round.

Last season, however, did not start well, as the club did little to strengthen its roster in the off-season, followed by a disastrous ACL campaign.  Things looked well in prospect when the World Cup break rolled around.  By May, they were third in the table, and a win over Suwon Bluewings when the league resumed play in July saw them move up another rung to second.

It was then that the wheels fell off, as Jeju suffered through a fifteen match winless run, which saw them plummet down the table, and a top six finish did not look on the cards.  A win against Gyeongnam in October changed things slightly, and Jeju did manage to finish in the upper half, rounding out the season with three consecutive clean sheets against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Ulsan Hyundai, and Suwon Bluewings.

The additions of Elias Aguilar, Yun Il-lok, and Jung Woo-jae among others in the winter had many believing that Jeju could once again be a contender this year, but it has taken longer than expected for the team to gel.  The former Daegu FC man has yet to appear for the islanders this season, although it is thought that his return from rehabilitation due to an ACL injury sustained last season is just about done.  The new faces have since begun to find their stride, but results are yet to come, and, it was with this in mind that Cho came to the decision to step down after spending nearly his entire career as a player and manager with the club.

He lamented the lack of results following last weekend's loss to Sangju Sangmu.  The burden of stress became too much for him to bear, and, taking full responsibility, decided to resign in a move that was agreed by the club.

The New Man - Choi Yun-kyum

Choi Yun-kyum is Jeju United's new manager.  He was with Busan IPark last season.  Photo: Jeju United.

In fact, Choi Yun-kyum is not a new face to Jeju United at all.  Like Cho, he played for the club when it was still known as the Yukong Elephants, and spent his entire playing career with the organization, appearing 153 times, and was a key member of the 1989 K League championship side, the only time the team has won in its entire history.

When he chose to go into management, he first took charge of Yukong Elephants in 1993, a year after his retirement, and stayed for eight seasons.  He also coached through the early transition period when the club was renamed Bucheon SK until 2002, and thereafter coached at Daejeon Citizen for four seasons, from 2003-2007.  He then moved to the Vietnamese League where he led Hoang Anh Gia Lai for three seasons.

Choi returned to the K League with Gangwon FC in 2015, and helped them secure promotion to the top flight for the 2017 season.  However, Gangwon's first year in the first division was met with difficulties, and Choi decided to step down with twelve matches left in the campaign.  Despite this, he is still the longest tenured and winningest manager in Gangwon club history.

He could have caused a major shock last season, as he led Busan IPark to the Promotion/Relegation playoff final against FC Seoul.  Busan, however, came up short, and Choi once again resigned.

Choi now takes charge of a Jeju United squad full of talent, but lacking results.  His first match at the helm will be against Gyeongnam, and the expectation is that with a new man on the sideline comes a change in fortunes for a team that deserves a much better return on its investment in the off-season.  While any talk of challenging for a title or returning to Asia should be put on the shelf, his task will be to return Jeju to respectability.  He certainly has the players to do it, and, if his calm demeanor can influence the dressing room, the islanders could be on their way back up the table soon enough. 

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