‘Ya kna bonny lad, ya should be able to pick a thing a two up from me’

‘What in the name of all that is holy did you just say to me?’

‘Ah said, never mind, ya’ can see from ma’ transfers a’v built a formidable team, ya’ agree a’m sure of it’ Steve Kean replied

Truth was, he actually had built a solid team in his 2 years in Qatar at Muaither Sports Club. The revolution started with Siem De Jong from Newcastle United for 14 million (prices in dollars), this was followed up by Ryan Nyambe from Steve Kean’s former club Blackburn for 2.2 million & 6 foot 8 forward Lacina Traore from Monaco for 9 million in his first season

Finishing 4th that season and a place in the Asian Champions league followed, as did a small rebuild. Traore, scoring 26 goals in all competitions found his way back to Monaco for 7.75 million, possibly rising to 13, De Jong went to the United Arab Emirates with Dubai and Nyambe went to other Qatari side Al-Arabi in the only move making an immediate profit

Kean replaced them with Ukrainian international Ivan Ordets from Shakhtar, Ramazotti from his former club DPMM although he’d left them by the time he signed for Muaither, and Ivan Donzi came in as well.

It was during this conversation with Steve Kean our own Stephen had realised one thing, and that was that if a stark raving Scottish lunatic who’s dialect is barely understandable can do well in this part of the world, then a mild mannered English speaking French Canadian surely can too. Another fact was his new team were rooted to the bottom of the Arabian Gulf League, the top division in the United Arab Emirates

Only 3 points away from safety at that time, they’d scored a paltry 16 goals in all competitions in 20 games in total. The need for a striker was evident right from the off, and one wasn’t far away. The second and most pressing point was defence, or lack thereof.

Before any training took place, or any meeting with his new team 1 order of business was done

Rob joined him in Singapore, Malaysia and now the UAE, another former colleague also made the trip East. Bang Seung-Hwan retired after winning the league with Stephen and Kedah, and has taken his first backroom role alongside his former manager.

Stephen had done his homework. People like Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez, Jurgen Klopp all had their own backroom staff that stuck with them through each move. Alex Ferguson had a solid line up on coaching staff through his time at Manchester United. Even Bob Bradley & Bruce Arena have kept their own assistants and coaches with them as they’ve moved around, and to emulate these great managers he wanted to have people with him he could trust.

He trusted Seung-Hwan, who just liked to be called Hwan, enough in Kedah to give the captains armband for the title winning season, and felt he could trust him enough to bring him into his backroom. Rob was already his most trusted aide, and with these 2 the hope would be they’d forge continue working together for the long haul.

With 2 new members of the back room staff in place, the survival mission can commence proper. The feeling was with such an abundance of forward players, 8 strikers in the first team alone how are this team not scoring much? But with 4 weeks to go before the first game of Stephens time at Al-Dhafra, the questioned was answered – none were particularly good, yet.

16 year old Bassalia Kante was only moved to the first team on Stephens first day at the recommendation of the director of football and hasn’t trained with the first team. Dahab and Abdelrahman have been the starting 2 but have scored 3 between them. Changes needed to be made, and they swiftly were.

The first change was to call his old boss in Kedah, and enquire about Ivan Sanchez, who’s 14 goals in 14 league games more or less won Kedah the league. 100,000 dollars was the fee quoted and paid.

‘Thanks for bringing me here, I really enjoyed our time together in Malaysia’

‘Don’t mention it, I’m just glad being the one making the deal for you this time’ was Stephens response. Ivan looked a bit confused. Maybe we’ll never get to find out who made the call a little over a year ago to bring Sanchez to Kedah, maybe we will?

Not sure why the fans think he’s a back up? Time will prove them wrong however.

Next change was the formation. No natural wingers but a lot of central players at the club meant Stephens hand was forced somewhat. They had worked on using 2 wing backs as the only wide men and to try and play centrally for the most, and in training it worked.

Sanchez showing his new team mates the kind of dizzying runs that won him the league last season, and the 4 central midfielders all linked up really well. But the game against Al-Wahda would be the real test




  1. Pingback: FROM QUEBEC TO THE WORLD – HEADING NORTH PART iii | On the Break

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