Iconic Korean defender Jang Jung eager to return to Singapore
The stern expression on his chiseled face as he bellowed out instructions to his teammates was a sight to behold for the Kallang faithful while visiting attackers didn't dare mess with the tough South Korean centre-back.
Part of Singapore's dream team of 1994, who won the Malaysian league and cup double, Jang Jung was the defensive rock in a side loaded with attacking talent.
After playing for one of K-League's top clubs Lucky-Goldstar Hwangso -- now known as FC Seoul -- Jang became familiar to Southeast Asian fans when he joined Perak FA in 1989.
A successful two year stint with Perak earned him the big move to join Singapore and it didn't take long for Jang to become a leading light as the republic chased Malaysia Cup success.
"When the chance came to join Singapore in the Malaysia Cup, I didn't hesitate and it was one of the best moves I ever made," Jang told ESPN FC.
"I always liked Singapore when I came for a holiday with my wife. We felt this country will be a good place to settle down as a family."
Sitting by the poolside at Singapore's V Hotel, the 51-year-old reminisced about his days with the so-called 'Dream Team' of 1994 but stopped short of singling out any one player as the talisman.
"[I] cannot name one player [as the star]," he said. "You put me in very dangerous position with this question. Wait, I say one name, the other guys say I never choose their name.
"But this is also the way our team was during that time. We have players like Abbas [Saad], Fandi [Ahmad] and Kadir [Yahaya] but nobody was better than others. We cannot win if we think of ourselves. We had to play for each other as a team together."
Jang's love affair with Singapore began when he represented the South Korea olympic team in the Merlion Cup in the mid 1980s.
But he doesn't like to dwell on his own playing career. Jang is more interested in finding out the latest developments at his old S.League club Geylang United -- now known as Geylang International. Jang had three seasons as a player at Geylang in the 1990s in the early days of the S.League.
His time with the Eagles saw him make full use of his time off the pitch, completing his coaching badges, which saw him take on a role within the club's youth system.
Working his way up through the ranks, he guided Geylang to the 2001 S.League title during a season in which he was named coach of the year.
"Geylang have many good memories for me," he said. "They gave me the chance to coach Prime League team and we become champions. The following year, I took the S.League team and we also won the title so it was a good time for me."
With the Eagles languishing in the bottom half of the table this season, Jang believes it will take time for the ailing giants to build a championship team again. But he does see positives in the new management at the club.
"Geylang to win S.League again? Why not?" he said. "If you can get some good players together, work on developing your younger players and keep them together for a few years, I am sure Geylang will win the S.League title again."
Having spent six years in Sri Lanka - coaching the nation's U23 and senior teams -- international experience and working with a small budget could make him a good fit for a role with within the ranks of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).
"If I get an offer to come back to Singapore to coach, of course I will be interested and likely to take [it]," he said. "Doesn't matter if it is with the national youth team or with an S.League club. It will be very interesting and exciting for me."
With his 19-year-old son studying at a local polytechnic and his wife's love for the Singapore way of life, it may not be long before we see the return of the much-loved South Korean, prowling the touchlines with his trademark stony expression at an S.League stadium near you.
ESPN FC editor Kelvin Leong is a former media officer for Singapore and ex-regional editor of ESPNSTAR.com. Twitter: @KelvinLeong29.