Steve Kean keen to kick on in Australia at end of Victory stint

Steve Kean’s tenure as Melbourne Victory caretaker boss may be rapidly reaching its conclusion, but the Scot is hopeful that his time in Australia – and the lessons he’s receiving – can continue.

Initially brought over from the UK to serve as an assistant to newly appointed Grant Brebner, Kean took over in the main Victory chair in April after Brebner was ousted following a 7-0 loss to Melbourne City

Quickly clarifying in his first press conference that he was simply keeping that chair warm for the next full-time Victory boss, Kean and his side’s fans didn’t have to wait long to find out who that would be: the club announcing the appointment of former Western Sydney Wanderers and Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic for the 2021-22 season less than a week after the ousting of Brebner. 

Since then, the one-time boss of Blackburn Rovers boss in the Premier League has overseen two wins, a draw and six losses — last Friday’s 6-1 win over Western United snapping a five-game losing run — and made headlines when he labelled the incoming Popovic as “unprofessional” for beginning the process of culling next season’s squad at AAMI Park without informing him that he was doing so. 

But while Victory fans know exactly who will be leading them next season — even if they’re not quite certain of which players have received an ominous call from Popovic and who hasn’t — Kean isn’t so sure of his next destination.  

The Glaswegian-born coach has crisscrossed the globe during his time career as a coach; occupying dugouts as either an assistant or coach in his native Britain, Spain, Brunei, Cyprus and now, Australia. 

And this last location, the 53-year-old says, is where he would like to remain if possible. 

“I’m not going to be at Victory, I’ve got this game and I’ve got the FFA Cup [Round of 32 qualifier],” Kean said. 

“I would like to stay in the [A-League] if I got the opportunity to stay but as of yet, nothing’s on the table. So, I’ll finish my contract here and we’ll finish it as strongly as we can. 

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“The thing is, we’re playing well and that’s a credit to the players. They’re really performing every day and taking any information that’s given to them and really delivering that on the pitch. 

“There are always [jobs] that come up. I’ve continued to work with the federation, the Scottish federation, even though I’m based in London. I’m still heavily involved in coach education – coaching coaches to A licence and B licence level. 

“I’ve really enjoyed doing that over the last three or four years, I’ll continue to do that, and then if a club job comes up that’s something that, in whatever capacity that may present itself, I’ll consider everything. 

“But I’ve loved my time here in Australia, my first thing is that I’d like to stay if the opportunity arose.

“The first thing I was really surprised about [the A-League], if I’m being honest, was the physicality of the league. I think you have to have a team that has to give massive physical output if you’re going to do well. 

“I was also quite surprised at how much the ball changes hands, so you have to be dealing with lots of transitions with and without the ball. If you can get the ball back in transition and have a good setup then that gives you a counterattack or you can get your rest defence really good and prevent counterattacks. That was something that was very, very apparent to me. 

“And then probably the last thing is how much teams attack. It doesn’t matter what minute of the game, they’re still trying to attack and score goals. A slightly different way of managing games because teams are going for it all the time. 

“You’re always learning as a coach, doesn’t matter how old you are or what league you’re playing in, you’re always learning something and they’re probably the things that jump out at me.”

Working as a caretaker, Kean has consistently responded to questions about Victory’s future with answers that he’s unaware of the club’s effort to assemble a squad for the 2021-22 season.

Instead, sometimes to the chagrin of Victory fans that would prefer he spend the final weeks of the season blooding youth, the Scot has consistently declared he’s only focused on winning games on the park with the strongest side available to him. 

But ahead of his final A-league game, he did say that he thinks the club has made positive steps in their efforts to escape their alarming nadir.

“I think, first of all, the Chairman and the board have appointed a new coach very early and it seems to be, like Victory always do, each coach they put in place they give them the opportunity to turn things around and put their own mark on it,” said Kean. 

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“I think they’ve taken positive steps early on when Grant left and it was very apparent and it was out there that I was only doing it on a short-term basis. 

“They went out and hired a coach that has won things here domestically. I think they’ve taken positive steps, the club, and I hope that they can learn from this season and really just kick on and do well for the club’s sake.”

Victory is set to conclude their 2020-21 season against crosstown foes Melbourne City behind closed doors at AAMI Park on Sunday — the A-League premiers winning the two previous fixtures by a combined score of 13-0.

His side just a point clear of bottom-placed Newcastle and the Jets possessing a game in hand, Kean admits that a desire to avoid a first-ever wooden spoon in club history is providing extra motivation for the team. 

“I think it goes without saying that you don’t want to finish any season on a low,” he said. 

“You certainly don’t want to finish bottom of any league and you don’t want to do it against your most bitter rival.

“We’ll be certainly going out into this game just to improve – you can always improve, even though we got a very good Victory – you can always improve in every display. And if we can take it up a notch from the last game there’s no reason why we can’t build on a really positive result.”

Kean confirmed that the injured Robbie Kruse and Nick Ansell were back in contention to play in Sunday’s fixture, while Ben Folami and Elvis Kamsoba would likely be rewarded for their strong games against United with another start.  

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne Victory

One thought on “Steve Kean keen to kick on in Australia at end of Victory stint

  1. Pingback: Socceroos stars absent, Melbourne City adopting “broader picture” thinking – Joey Lynch

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