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Column: Why it's gone wrong for Daejeon


Daejeon Hana Citizen have been made to wait to play their last two matches of the season due to a player testing positive for COVID-19. Heading into the two rearranged games, the Purples occupied sixth place and without a playoff place being guaranteed. The Hana Finance Group has not began as planned but there are mitigating circumstances. This is why it has gone wrong for Daejeon in 2020.

Injuries

Any team can be ravaged by injury but Daejeon have desperately unfortunate. Having broken the club’s transfer record for the signing of goalkeeper Kim Dong-jun, the Korean international suffered a dislocated shoulder in the FA Cup 3rd round win over Chuncheon in June, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. Daejeon also lost the club's longest serving player and first choice goalkeeper from 2019, Park Ju-won, to a wrist injury and were down to third choice Kim Jin-young who endured a shaky start before beginning to find some consistency.

Before that, though, Connor Chapman suffered a pelvis injury in pre-season, forcing the former Olyroos skipper to miss the first seven matches of the season. A rare and unusual injury for a player to pick up but Chapman wasn’t the only as Korean youth international centre back Lee Ji-sol suffered the same fate. 

Left back Lee Gyu-ro picked up a shoulder injury and missed three months. Fellow former FC Seoul defender Lee Woong-hee picked up an ankle injury that saw him side-lined for three months as well. Bruno Baio began the season injured too and Yoon Seung-won, who popped up with some important goals, spent the majority of the campaign on the treatment table. Most if not all of these players would have been first choice. Should any team lose half of their first choice eleven they would struggle. The fact that Daejeon still gave themselves a chance heading into their last two matches of the season is commendable. 

A strong first XI can be made with the players who have missed large chunks of the campaign through injury or suspension, this includes Park In-hyeok's 10-game ban for a drink-driving charge.


Heo Jung-moo

Results have not been good enough since the summer but this can be attributed to the decisions made by those in the board. Under pressure from Hana Finance Group to deliver has perhaps caused CEO Heo Jung-moo to make some rash decisions, starting with the very first he made. As a citizen club, Daejeon appointed Lee Heung-sil last summer to replace the sacked Ko Jong-soo. Under the former Ansan and Jeonbuk boss Lee Heung-sil, Daejeon ended the 2019 season with just one defeat in 12 and with a win over champions Gwangju on the final day. 

Eulji Lewis

But, to get the Hana Finance era up and running, the club, led by former South Korean national team manager Heo Jung-moo as the club’s CEO, wanted a "name" as manager and so appointed Hwang Sun-hong. It was the worst kept secret in K League and Lee Heung-sil found out he was to be replaced before the 2019 season was even concluded. Speaking to Best Eleven at the time, Lee revealed his disappointment: 

“If a club is transitioning into a corporate-run team then the coaching staff might be moved on. I can understand that. But, shouldn't I be spoken to about it first before it is made public? There are supposed to be procedures but I didn’t know anything about it until I came across it [in the media].”

“All I heard was that there was to be an announcement at 3 o’clock (on Tuesday 5th November). I haven’t heard anything from the club. This is basically being replaced, isn’t it? And the season is not even finished.” 

There was even suggestion that Heo was a bit too hands-on. The manager should manage the team, the CEO should let them do their job. 

Managers

On the subject of managers, Hwang has had his critics for what he did to FC Seoul but sacking him after a win, with the team in third, five points behind Jeju and just three points behind Suwon with nine games left was a strange decision. Equally strange was sacking Hwang and not having a backup plan before opting for the so-called “David Choyes”, Cho Min-gook. 

K League table after Hwang Sun-hong was sacked (via WorldFootball)

Daejeon have won just twice under Cho, 2-1 away victories to Ansan Greeners and Jeonnam Dragons. This is perhaps of little surprise seeing as Cho Min-gook hadn’t worked at K League level for six years before Mr. Heo got on the phone to him. Before that he was with Chungju University for five years, had a one-year spell with Ulsan Hyundai after four years with Ulsan Mipo Dockyard Dolphins. His time with the Horangi was largely spent in mid-table, winning 13 from 33 pre-split and none afterwards.

The change in manager with so little of the season remaining is ultimately, likely to cost Daejeon promotion. Having to adapt to training style, formations, tactics, man management styles it is of little surprise, really, that the Purples have struggled. New manager bounce effect hasn’t worked.

Bad luck has riddled Daejeon this term. Of all the teams to have a player test positive for COVID-19 it had to be Daejeon. Likewise, of all the teams to have a player get done for drink driving is also desperately unlucky. Circumstances such as these were avoidable, of course they were, but Daejeon have been incredibly unlucky. 

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