Kean setting the bar high for defending champions DPMM

Despite having to release Boris Raspudic and Joe Gamble due to the new three-foreigner ruling, Brunei DPMM head coach Steve Kean is still targeting an S.League and Singapore Cup double in the 2016 season.

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While acknowledging that it was tough to sacrifice the duo, Kean believes it could be a blessing in disguise where it opens up slots for the locals to come in and shine on the big stage.

“It’s very difficult for us because both of them had excellent seasons,” the 48-year-old said. “Definitely the two guys were great to work with. They were great professionals and great role models for the local lads.

“But it happened the year before (in 2014) when Roberto Alviz had a good season and so did Rodrigo Tosi, who was the top scorer.

“That’s the rule of the league so we had to make the tough decisions. It’ll be much more difficult for us at the back this year (without Serbian defender Raspudic), but that’s the challenge to the local players to be ready to step up and take the opportunity to play.

“Also there’s more space in midfield for somebody to play without the presence of Joe.”

While targeting a double this season, Kean is keen to assert that youth development will not be compromised at Brunei DPMM as a result.

Three players from their under-19 squad have been promoted to the senior side for this season – captain Azim Izamuddin Hj Suhaimi, goalkeeper Hafiz Abdul Rahman and Na’im Hj Tarif.

“The ideal scenario is to retain the S.League title and hopefully win the Singapore Cup for the first time,” said the former Blackburn Rovers tactician.

“We had a good season last year, but we need to continue to set high goals and keep improving as a club.

“Now that we have only three import players, we really need to develop our own players. Last year we started the under-19s squad and now we have brought three of them here.

“That shows that there is now youth development happening with the club, which is really positive.”

READ: Brunei DPMM's complete season preview

Apart from that, Kean is hoping that precocious talent Azwan Ali continues to mature as a player.

The 23-year-old won the 2015 Young Player of the Year with his impressive displays that yielded two goals and 12 assists, while he also picked up two red cards along the way.

One of those came in a 2-0 home win against Tampines Rovers, where he was dismissed for throwing the boot at his own teammate Raspudic.

“From the first day I arrived here, I know this guy has a special talent and he can play in any league in the world,” he said. “The challenge for him now is to control his temper.

“Like any top player, you get a lot of contact and fouls against you. He needs to take that as a compliment, not lash out or get frustrated when the referee’s decision goes against him.

“He has to take the respect that he is being targeted by the opposition as a key player. Hopefully he can develop in that aspect because he’s a wonderful player.”