British Coaches Abroad: Steve Kean

After leaving Blackburn at the start of last season, Steve Kean took time out to learn new training methods around Europe. Now he's managing Brunei DPMM and loving it...

Last Updated: 09/04/14 at 11:33 Post Comment

Latest Articles

Divock Origi Is Like Connor Sammon (Sort Of)

Post comment

One Mailboxer inserts his tongue into cheek to offer his thoughts on Liverpool's newest signing. Plus thoughts on league-owned clubs, badges, and swearing...

United Can't Rely On Force Of Personality Alone

10 comments

With only two weeks to go until the start of the season, Man United still have plenty of work to do in the transfer market. It seems the enormity of the task is dawning on Van Gaal...

All Articles

Steve Kean is the manager of Brunei DPMM, who play in Singapore's top division. The 46-year-old managed Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League, and was assistant manager at Fulham, Real Sociedad and Coventry City. As a player, he spent four years in Portugal. Here, he talks about working with royalty, his chance to join Chelsea, and why he had no regrets about his time at Blackburn.

Before I took the job, I met the owner - the Crown Prince of Brunei - in his palace. The club had contacted my representative last year, and invited me over. Although I was open-minded about moving abroad, I never expected to come to this part of the world. But I did my research, flew out, and met the directors in a hotel. We went for dinner, and then I went to see the crown prince.

As soon as I spoke to him, I could see he was passionate about the club. He's an ex-player himself (playing in goal for DPMM). We spent a long time talking about football, where he wants to take the club, and whether I could help. At the moment we're playing in the Singapore league - we're committed to it for the next three years - but he wants to take it to the highest level possible.

I sat down and thought: "This is perfect for me." The club wanted me to sign a long contract but I said: "I don't know you, you don't know me, let's keep it to one year." I'd love to stay longer, but I felt as if the directors were offering me a huge deal just because I'd been in the Premier League. I said: "Listen, don't be under pressure - let's keep it to one year, but hope it goes much further than that."

The prince comes to training every day. He's so passionate about the club - he's got a wicked schedule, working for the government and the country, but he still finds the time. Is it extra pressure? Not at all. I meet him every two weeks at the palace, so he knows what we're trying to achieve.

I watched all of last season's games on DVD, and I wanted to change one or two things. We were conceding too many goals in the last 20 minutes, getting too stretched, and there was a little bit of fear. No disrespect to anyone who came before, but I felt we needed to address the fitness levels. So we brought them into the gym, and had more five and six minute intense games. Before, there had been more 11 v 11 games, long runs, and one-paced training. The players have responded well.

The standard of the local players is very good - much better than I thought. I saw the last game of last season live, and I thought: "These really are decent." There are one or two in particular, 21 or 22 years old, that could play at such a good level. They just need the exposure. We're allowed five import players: two of them are Irish lads, Roy O'Donovan (ex-Sunderland) and Joe Gamble (ex-Hartlepool). The imports must be role models for the local players. You don't want guys here for three or four months, who don't want to be here, and who leave as soon as they get another offer.

I've watched more Premier League games since I've been in Brunei than I've ever watched. They show every game, and they keep showing them until the next game starts. Most of the guys at our club - most people in Brunei in fact - are Liverpool fans. So, because they're having a good season, I use that as a reference. I tell the players: "Did you see the way they pressed?" or "Did you see their penetrating passes?" And because they watch it round the clock, they know what I mean.

At the moment, I'm in Brunei on my own. My wife - who has always been a massive support to me - is still in England with our kids because it's a very important time for their schooling. We decided it was better to keep the kids in their current school, as my daughter is doing her A Levels and my son is choosing his GCSE subjects. We see each other every half-term when they fly out to Brunei.

I've heard horror stories about footballers having to move their families all over the place. You move from club to club, country to country, and your kids end up going to nine or ten schools. When I went to Fulham, my family and I were based in Weybridge, and we thought: "Wherever I work, the family will stay here, and I'll do the miles." But it's difficult, working away. In my year out, I got to do things I'd never done before - parents' evenings, school events, things I'd missed out on.

After I left Blackburn, I spent a year visiting clubs across Europe. Rather than seeing clubs in England, or putting "I went to Barcelona for a week" on my CV, I visited smaller clubs in Spain, Austria, Poland. I went back to Portugal. I saw youth development in the Basque region. I thought: "Why is Belgium producing all these players? What are they doing differently?" So I went to Belgium.

I was very impressed with Standard Liege. They're not spending massively, but they're very, very selective in the players they take. It's a good model. I spoke to the owner (Roland Duchatelet), who's also taken over Chalrton, and he's a very intelligent guy. Standard are having a great season - above Anderlecht, above Club Brugge - so hopefully they have the same success at Charlton.

I first moved abroad when I was 20. I was at Celtic as a young player, but I found it hard to break into the first team. I went on loan to Swansea - Chris Coleman was an apprentice there at the time - and then I got a call from an agent, asking me about spending a week on trial in Portugal. Very much like Brunei, I went there with an open mind and I liked it. I spent three years at Academica de Coimbra (then in the second division) and then spent a year at Naval (also second division).

Going to Portugal had a huge influence on me. I'd been at Celtic since I was 13, learning the Celtic way, so to see a different style of play was massive. The game was much slower, with much more possession. I realised you didn't always have to finish with a shot or cross - sometimes you could go backwards. I had some very good coaches, and I learned the language, which was great.

I could have been Luiz Felipe Scloari's assistant at Chelsea. They approached me when I was assistant at Coventry - I spoke to Chris Coleman, the manager, and he said: "Speak to the chairman (Ray Ranson)." So I spoke to Ray, and he said: "You've got a contract here." So it didn't happen, but it's always nice when you're approached by a club of that stature. It shows people rate you.

There was also contact before Jose Mourinho arrived this summer. This time it wasn't as strong - I was sounded out by an agent asking whether I was up for an assistant's role, and whether I was available. I said I was taking time out, and that when I came back, I wanted a manager's job.

Do I have any regrets about my time at Blackburn? Not one. Decisions were made above me about selling players, which made it difficult. It's much harder to win games in the Premier League when you've got so many young guys, players just starting out. But it meant we gave opportunities to guys like Martin Olsson, Junior Hoilett, Grant Hanley, Jake Kean. Really, we had a great dressing room, and I can count on one hand the number of games when we were really, really poor.

I don't feel my reputation has suffered because of Blackburn. Speak to anyone who's ever worked with me - because the best people to ask are the players. Ask Andy Cole, Edwin van der Sar, Paul Robinson, Bradley Orr, Grant Hanley, Scott Dann, whoever. It's the players who matter. It's your job to make them better. They're the ones who'll decide whether you're good, bad, or indifferent.

As a coach, you always have to get better. You can't put on the same sessions you did five or six years ago. You can't say: "We had a great season in the year 2000, we'll do those sessions again." The game's always changing. Remember, anyone can put on a session. But it's no good walking off the pitch thinking: "That was a worldie session" if the players are walking off thinking: "That was torture." They have to think: "I've learned something today, I can take that forward."

Moving to Brunei has given me a lot of energy back. The players are so hungry for information. Everything I ask of the boys, they give me. The (English) Premier League is a special league, but I'm here for the long haul. It's an up and coming region and over the next five or six years it will be massive.

Interview by @owenamos for britishcoachesabroad.com.

There goes my Tuesday. How is this poisonous toad still being reported on? How did he get the Blackburn job in the first place, when Rovers were sitting comfortably in mid-table. Why has nobody ever asked him that??? Oooooohhhh yes, that's right!!
- @tonkavic

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

C

lassic management. Build them up and then knock them back. Raise expectations and then dampen them. Create a dynamic where by you demand the most from your team, but where the team are given room to manoeuvre unexpected or unwanted results. Classy work by Van Gaal, he really reminds me a lot of me. A smart cookie, make no doubt.

hump3.
Van Gaal: 'I struggle for first three months'

H

e will be the England left back for ten years or more, and then you will have to thank MUFC for that. *smiles*

london saint
Shaw: Criticism spot on

P

urely because of that little diva moment he had last night, I don't want him coming to my club. DESTROYED ? Grow up and give something back to the club that helped put you up there on the world stage.

bale doubt
Saints' Schneiderlin stalemate

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Transfer news: Southampton sign Ryan Bertrand on season-long loan from Chelsea

Southampton have signed a replacement for Luke Shaw after capturing Chelsea's Ryan Bertrand on a season-long loan.

Indian Super League: Ex-Juventus and Monaco striker David Trezeguet joins FC Pune City

World Cup winner David Trezeguet has been unveiled as the latest Indian Super League signing, joining FC Pune City.

Transfer news: Everton sign striker Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea for £28m

Everton had to overcome a late paperwork scare to finalise the signature of Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku.

Mail Box

Divock Origi Is Like Connor Sammon (Sort Of)

One Mailboxer inserts his tongue into cheek to offer his thoughts on Liverpool's newest signing. Plus thoughts on league-owned clubs, badges, and swearing...

Mails Come From A Land Down Under

We have an example of league-owned clubs from Australia while Kiwi boys want more respect for refs. Plus, Van Gaal won't stick with 3-5-2 and worried if Koeman will cut it...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property