It wouldn’t be the K-League without a strong Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. The Yellows have won seven league titles and possess the biggest trophy cabinet in the southern half of the peninsula. It was 2006 however when the golden trophy last resided just south of Seoul. Since then, Pohang, Suwon and, most recently, Jeonbuk have claimed the mantle.
The second half of 2008 and the first half of 2009 was a tough time for the club’s fans. Kim Hak-bom had led Seongnam playing attractive and successful football but the gruff tactician’s powers seemed to fade after four years at the helm. At the end of 2008, the former powerhouse looked a little slow and predictable and it was no surprise when Kim was out of the door.
The identity of the new man was something of a surprise. Shin Tae-yong may have been called ‘Mr Seongnam’ due to the fact that he spent 12 Data HK seasons with the club as a player but when he was appointed as coach, he had little experience to suggest that he could lead the club back to the summit. As his playing career started to come to an end, Shin headed to Australia and the new A-League. The midfielder barely got a chance to show Queensland Roar fans what he was made of before injury intervened. Shin stayed on with the Brisbane-based club as an assistant coach.
Still, few expected the 39 year-old to be announced as Seongnam coach for the 2009 season. It didn’t start well. Australian football is regarded as one where power is more prized than technique. Shin seemed to confirm that stereotype by introducing a more direct style to a Seongnam team that had long been known for a fluid passing game. In came giant Montenegrin marksman Dzenan Radoncic – a striker not known for his subtlety – and from Australia came a defender that was just as big, Sasa Ognenovski.
The first half few months were disappointing. The team looked disjointed and toothless. Over time though, results and performances started to improve and …