Kean targets cup glory for rejuvenated DPMM
Coach Kean believes Brunei DPMM have turned a corner after ringing the changes
|BRUNEI DPMM FC||WARRIORS FC|
Two wins and a draw in three games, with 11 goals scored along the way.
It might not surprise many that those statistics belong to Brunei DPMM in this season's The New Paper League Cup.
After all, the Wasps are three-time winners of the competition, and have finished in the top three of the S.League in each of the past three seasons.
As DPMM prepare to face Warriors FC in their TNP League Cup semi-final at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight, their coach Steve Kean is desperate for his charges to keep up the momentum.
After all, their fine form in the cup competition is a welcome respite for the former Blackburn Rovers manager, who has had to endure seeing his side rack up uncharacteristically bad results in the S.League.
They have won just once in 11 league matches, losing nine, and are second from bottom with over a third of the season gone.
In fact, before their 5-1 thumping of Tampines Rovers to kick off their League Cup campaign two weeks ago, DPMM's only other win this season was in April.
Kean candidly told The New Paper in an interview that this season has been his most challenging as a coach, since he arrived in the Sultanate in 2013.
"It was the hardest period for me as coach," said the Scot.
"I had never gone that amount of games consecutively without winning, and picking up defeat after defeat in the league.
"But I always knew we would be able to turn the corner.
"Even before the League Cup, there were games where we played well.
"We lost to (S.League leaders) Albirex Niigata twice, but the signs (of a recovery) were there."
Kean, though, has had to make drastic changes to his starting 11.
A 9-3 humbling at the hands of Home United on May 25 was the turning point.
The 49-year-old turned to the amateur local leagues in Brunei to scour for new talent.
"What we've done in the last few months is basically build a new team, right through our spine," he said.
"Against Balestier (Khalsa, which DPMM won 3-0) last week, we had a new goalkeeper, two new central defenders, two new central midfielders, and a whole new forward line.
"Our goalkeeper (Awangku Mu'izzuddin), for example, is from the Police team in Brunei.
"We signed him at first because we needed a third goalkeeper, but he has come in, settled down and gets better and better."
Kean believes the format of the League Cup has also played a part in DPMM's resurgence.
"As I said, the signs of improvement were there and they coincided with the start of this tournament," he said.
"We quite like having a game every three days, with a quick turnaround.
"We feel we have a good fitness level, and I feel we get stronger in the last 20 or 25 minutes of games."
Kean's claims of his team's superior fitness were evident in DPMM's last game, when they came back from 3-1 down against Geylang International to score twice in the final 21 minutes and salvage a draw.
The result also helped them top Group B and avoid Group A winners Albirex, who play Geylang International in tonight's other semi-final.
With form on his side, Kean has set his sights on a cup double.
He said: "I've told the boys that there's no reason we can't win both cup competitions (the League Cup and RHB Singapore Cup), even if we start both of them second from bottom in the league. If we can do well in both cups, that would be a successful season.
"We want to be the first team to win the League Cup four times, and now that we're in the habit of winning again, we want to keep the momentum up.
"It's early days yet, and we've won only two games, but we're back to looking like scoring when we go forward, and stubborn when we're defending."