After the S.League title, DPMM's Kean wins Coach of the Year award
Scot wins coach honours after guiding DPMM to league crown
He is most famous for being in charge of former English Premier League champions Blackburn Rovers, although they were relegated to the Championship when he was at the helm in 2012.
During his 21-month spell in the hotseat of the Lancashire club, Steve Kean endured criticism from many quarters, and Blackburn's own fans actually campaigned to have him removed.
Almost a year after he resigned in September 2012, the Scot (above) packed his bags and travelled over 11,000km to rebuild his coaching reputation with little-known Brunei DPMM.
Last night, he went some way to proving a point to his critics.
Two weeks after leading DPMM to a historic first Great Eastern Yeo's S.League title, Kean picked up the Coach of the Year gong at the S.League Awards Night at the Heliconia Ballroom at Marina Bay Sands.
The Scot reflected: "When I arrived two years ago, people probably thought: What are you doing in Brunei?
"But I saw it as a way to bring my experience as an academy director in the Premier League at numerous clubs, to really help DPMM and Brunei football.
"It's been non-stop work, but I've enjoyed every minute of it. It's been a breath of fresh air."
The 48-year-old insisted, however, that his tumultuous time at Blackburn did not necessarily make him a better coach.
IN THE PAST
"I don't think about that," said Kean, who previously also had coaching roles at clubs like Fulham, Reading and Coventry.
"For 10 years in the Premier League, I was getting plaudits.
"Then you find yourself in a situation where there are financial issues, where, for example, you've got to play the youngest team ever to play in the Premier League, but we went to Old Trafford and we won (3-2 in Dec 2011).
"So I don't see it as all negative. My time at Blackburn, there were lots of positives."
As he looked down at the Coach of the Year award he held in his hands, he added: "I'm delighted to win this... it's an extension to the rest of your staff, your players, your fans.
"You're the guy that gets the award, but there's a whole team behind that."
DPMM had another reason to smile when 23-year-old attacking midfielder Azwan Ali picked up the Young Player of the Year award.
Kean lavished praise on the Brunei international: "He's an exceptional talent, an absolute gem.
"He's as good a young player as I've worked with, and I've worked with some really good ones like Junior Hoilett and Martin Olsson at Blackburn.
"This boy can play at a very, very high level... "
At last night's ceremony, the S.League also held special tributes for Teo Hock Seng and Leong Kok Fann, the former chairmen of Tampines Rovers and Geylang International, respectively.
COACH OF THE YEAR
- STEVE KEAN (Brunei DPMM)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
- FUMIYA KOGURE (Albirex Niigata)
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR
- AZWAN ALI (Brunei DPMM)
TOP SCORER AWARD
- RAFAEL RAMAZOTTI (Brunei DPMM)
GOAL OF THE YEAR
- SHOTARO IHATA (Albirex Niigata)
STORY OF THE YEAR
- Last Man Standing SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ (The New Paper)
PICTURE OF THE YEAR
- Keeper's Jeepers GAVIN FOO (The New Paper)
REFEREE OF THE YEAR
- JANSEN FOO
ASSISTANT REFEREE OF THE YEAR
- LIM KOK HENG
FAIR PLAY AWARD
- GEYLANG INTERNATIONAL
FAN CLUB OF THE YEAR
- COURTS YOUNG LIONS
Albirex Niigata win Best Player award and Goal of the Year
SWANS' JOY: Fumiya Kogure (right) receiving his Player of the Year award from May Ngiam, YHS Pte Ltd's vice-president of marketing (left). TNP PHOTO: JEREMY LONG
On Albirex Niigata's official website, Fumiya Kogure says he sees football as "a tool to express myself".
He has been doing just that all season in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, entertaining fans with his velvet touches on the ball and superb vision while pulling the strings in the White Swans' midfield, as the team lifted The New Paper League Cup and RHB Singapore Cup double.
Last night, the 26-year-old bagged the top prize at the S.League Awards, when he was named the Player of the Year.
Speaking to TNP later, a beaming Kogure said: "This is the first award I've won in my career.
"It feels unreal. Like I'm dreaming. I'm very, very happy to win."
Kogure, who was on the books of Albirex's J.League team as well as second-tier Japanese side Mito Hollyhock before joining the S.League club at the start of the season, has been in fine form this year.
He made a total of 32 appearances in league and cup competitions, scoring five goals.
His playmaking skills have caught the eye, delivered numerous assists from his usual position playing just off the main striker.
"Awards are an important part of football, and as a team, Albirex want to win everything we are up for," said Kogure, who idolises Italian pass master Andrea Pirlo.
"So I'm very happy I managed to contribute to my team by first helping to win the two cups, and now, this individual award."
There was also joy for another White Swan, as Shotaro Ihata won the Goal of the Year Award.
Remarkably, the strike that gave the 28-year-old forward the win - a 16th-minute winner against Balestier Khalsa on March 20 - was his only goal this season.
Receiving the ball on the right flank from a throw-in, Ihata allowed it to bounce past him, before unleashing a volley from well over 30 metres which caught everyone unawares and sailed into the top corner of the goal.
In limited English, Ihata said: "It was the best goal I have scored in my football career. I'm very happy."
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ
Local football fraternity give their ideas to revamp S.League
As the curtain fell on the 20th season of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League at Marina Bay Sands last night, many there must have wondered: What will next season hold for them?
There has been plenty of speculation about rule changes ahead of the 2016 season of the S.League, like a reduction in the number of imports and an increase in young players at each local club, as the local fraternity waits to hear from the authorities.
The shock end to the LionsXII's participation in the Malaysian Super League could also have an impact on plans, as the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) explores various scenarios to ensure the team's players play professional football next season.
It is understood S.League chief executive Lim Chin will make an official announcement on the changes by the end of the week.
Steve Kean, coach of S.League champions Brunei DPMM, revealed the club have been told they can sign up to four foreign players for next season, but one has to be below the age of 21.
This past season, clubs were allowed to sign six imports, with one below the age of 21. Only five could be named in each matchday squad.
Said Kean: "I think for everybody's point of view, going from five to three foreigners puts a massive onus on the local players to step up.
"Now it's up to the local players, both in Brunei and the local S.League teams, to grab their opportunity, to make sure the quality of the league continues to improve.
"For us, we're finalising our pre-season and we'll start back on Jan 9.
"I'm going to bring in a couple of players from the Under-19 team who have done really well over the last six months, and just keep moving forward."
Teo Hock Seng, who recently stepped down as Tampines Rovers chairman after a 15-year tenure during which the club won five S.League titles, said clubs should look towards signing younger foreign players anyway.
"You take foreigners who are jaded and thrown out from other leagues, and by the time they come to our shores, they're carrying injuries," he said.
Teo, who was honoured with former Geylang chairman Leong Kok Fann at last night's ceremony, made a speech where he warned, tongue in cheek, he was helping put together a Tampines squad for 2016 that would scare everyone.
Former S.League player and Singapore international R Sasikumar, however, says tweaks to rules and guidelines will not suffice.
"Rather than making cosmetic changes, I think we need to reboot the S.League. A complete overhaul," he said.
"You need drastic changes. In terms of team structure, team ownership, how we spread talent among the clubs, the TV experience, the stadium experience...
"If you want your football economy to thrive, your league must make money."
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ
Rather than making cosmetic changes, I think we need to reboot the S.League. If you want your football economy to thrive, your league must make money.
— Former Singapore international R Sasikumar
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now