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Daegu FC manager Choi Wonkwon looks back on his first full season in charge

Daegu FC manager Choi Wonkwon looks back on his first season as a full-time manager after beating Incheon United 2-1 in the final game of the 2023 Hana 1Q K League 1 season. He successfully guided the citizen club into the Final A group and overcame any doubts about his ability as a manager. Daegu FC correspondent Muyeol Jung caught up with him in the press conference.

Daegu beat Incheon by two goals to one at home in the final game of the season. How do you assess the game and the result?

"I think it was a very good game. We couldn't get the results we wanted after we entered the Final A Round. But I am happy to win today and happy to see Lee Keunho leave with a happy memory in the last game of the season. Also, I am so happy to see our fans off at home with the three points in the final game of the season so that they can spend a relaxing time at the end of the year. "

Two goals came from a similar pattern as Edgar headed home twice from Hong Chul's cross. Is this what Daegu prepared for?

"We always prepare this pattern. There were not many options available for us to choose from when there's no Cesinha or Barcelos. I bet Incheon was preparing to stop us from doing this kind of pattern. But we had to prepare even more than they thought we would."

It was Lee Keunho's last game. How did you see his performance?

"He did a great job in today's game as usual. I was going to get him to play 90 minutes in his final game (laugh), but he kept on signalling for a change. I don't think there's a footballer who can run and deliver what the manager wants to do as much as he does in any other league even internationally. Having him playing upfront certainly helped and got the best out of the youngsters in the team." 

So you must be feeling gutted about him hanging up the boots now.

"Yes, indeed. I think we can still make good use of him." 

You give him a big hug after he was taken off in the 60th minute.

"Yesterday we had a shooting session with him after the main session in training. The fact that I wouldn't be able to see him play again came to my mind all of a sudden and I felt gutted. I don't know if men need anything else to say in this situation with just a hug. That hug served that purpose. Our relationship continues, although our time as manager and player is over." 

Looking at his retirement ceremony, there must have been a lot of thought and emotion running through your mind.

"Well, I was jealous. It is right to do this for a player like Keunho who has been influential in football. I came to Daegu as a first-division player, but couldn't help the team stay in top-flight football. Then things swiftly led to others as I became a player-coach. I think having this kind of ceremony is what our veterans Lee Yongrae and Hong Chul would like to have. Having this kind of ceremony more often might make it less special, but I am really happy with what we could do for him today." 


Any steps to take in preparation for the next season?

"Well as you know, we are not a team that can be proactive in the transfer market. Instead, we are trying to get hold of Hong Jungwoon who is soon a free agent. Other than him, we need more assets in midfield and attacking areas. We had only one signing who we paid money for going into this season, which was Kim Gangsan. So I don't think our business will be any different this transfer window, but I will request more investment, of course. 

"Getting deep into this season, I felt we have developed so much and improved our performances. In what will be my second year as manager, I will work on more details. I imagine we would finish in a higher position if we could pick up more points in the first round robin. Also, we will have to take the FA Cup more seriously next season. This season our approach to the game was defensive because of our experience that we were struggling in the relegation battle last season. However, we will take a more active approach to play to our best. " 

Ten years ago, Daegu were relegated after a 0-0 draw to Gyeongnam and you were in the squad. However, ten years later, Daegu turned into a completely different team in a much better situation. This season saw the club set a record high attendance with 11 sell-out crowds out of 19 home games. It must be a strange feeling for you to have witnessed how this club has evolved.

"Every year is special to me. I have been through every position in this club from a first division player, second division player, B team coach, First team coach, and assistant coach, to where I am now. In this journey, every moment was such a blessing and I think I have tried to make the most of what was given to me. As a manager, I have a goal to achieve. That's Asian Champions League football. I want to take our fans abroad. I can't be at Daegu forever, but that's what I want to achieve with this club. Never had I thought I'd be staying with Daegu this long, but I will give it my best to achieve the goal next season." 

Jo Jinwoon and Lee Jinyong leave Daegu temporarily to join Gimcheon Sangmu soon. 

"That gives me a headache. That's why we are desperate to get hold of Hong Jungwoon. On the other hand, I am proud to have developed them into players who are deservedly selected by Gimcheon considering what they were capable of when they joined us in their early 20s. This is such a rewarding feeling for managers. I wish them the best of luck at Gimcheon." 

Final words to Lee Keunho.

"I keep telling him that you are always welcome to Daegu whenever you want to get involved with a coaching role when I am still here. He will have to go through coaching roles anyway. He says he will spend time with his family, and do some business, but he is a football man through and through with a lot of ability. I wish him all the best and the happiest time with his family. Also, I'd like to see him in the football sector as soon as possible." 

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