Should Hiddink Take Over the KNT?

The Hiddink debate has been on everyone’s mind for the past two weeks. From what I’ve observed, the public (gauged from internet comments, which reflects public sentiment quite well in Korea) generally wants Hiddink to take over for 2018, whereas the more hardcore fans (read: Tavern writers, K-football enthusiasts on Twitter, and BSK) tend to be more split on the issue. The entire Tavern crew minus one is actually opposed to Hiddink taking over right now, as much as we idolize guy, but we admit that there are very good arguments for Hiddink taking over for STY as well. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that we are siding with Kim Hogon and the KFA cronies – from the very start the KFA has been universally criticized for its short-sightedness and poor decision-making.

In this post I will try to summarize all the various arguments for/against Hiddink’s appointment (and add some of my own), and at times insert my impressions on how convincing the arguments are.


Why Hiddink SHOULD be appointed manager of the KNT for the 2018 cycle:

1. Hiddink can, most likely, do a better job than STY

Let’s talk about why this KNT team sucks. We have players like KSY and SHM who we know on paper are capable of holding their own against premier league sides, and a number of Bundesliga players who can play decently well. What’s clear is that this team SHOULD be performing much better than it has been. I’m not saying we should be world beaters, but we shouldn’t be losing to China/Qatar. We shouldn’t be grinding out scoreless draws against Uzbekistan. Most frustratingly, our passing game should not be this embarrassingly bad.

Now, this phenomenon of underperforming is most certainly multifactorial – sure, many players are out of form, most notably KSY and LCY. That being said, I think it’s also painfully clear that this team lacks:

Motivation. Tactics. Organization. Tuhon.

Guess who’s a coach who’s very good at getting these kinds of things straight? Guus Hiddink.

Hiddink has also stated that this current squad is technically more talented than the 2002 team, to the point where he stated he knows what this team needs to get back on track (debatable, but there is some credence to that claim). To me, it seems Hiddink sees a great opportunity to yet again transform an ailing team – he probably believes (as I do) that much of the team’s failures are attributable due to mental and tactical reasons, and he believes he has what it takes to fix that.

If you believe the team underperforms because we just don’t have talent period (which is a pretty fair argument when we’re talking defense, DMs, and fullbacks in particular), this argument may not be the most convincing, but I think it is unquestionable that much of the team’s failures IS attributable to things Hiddink could fix. The theoretically is why we’re having this argument in the first place (not to mention the question of whether Hiddink’s Korea can function without a HMB or a Yoo Sangchul). As Roy said, “Hiddink has lost his Midas touch” but is still, objectively speaking, a better manager than Shin TY.

Speaking of which, as much as I like STY as person his managing skill is truly questionable. Weird tactical variations ruined the U20 World Cup, what many thought should’ve been a golden generation. Weird subs keep happening too (Olympics, recent WCQ’s). And let’s be real, STY’s performance against Iran and Uzbekistan were pretty bad – Iran down to 10 men at home, Uzbek’s literally letting us play our game and not pressuring us at all. It’s wrong to blame this all on STY but with his track record, can he get even one win at the WC? STY’s got a lot to learn, and it’s obvious he’s going to be the KNT manager EVENTUALLY. For now, why not appoint someone who can right the ship for STY so he doesn’t end up like HMB (which is almost certain to happen)? Such is the argument the pro-Hiddink side makes.


2. Uniting the country / Motivating the players

I’m not exaggerating when I say this – Hiddink is revered in Korea almost as a God. We need someone who can command the respect of the locker room. Cho Kwang Rae lost the locker room and caused a rift between the K League players and the KPA. Choi Kang Hee REALLY lost the locker room with Ki SY’s twitter comments and such by favoring the opposite side that CKR favored. And Stielike quickly lost the respect of the players as well. The arrival of Hiddink, then, should be an instant morale and confidence booster. After all this current generation grew up idolizing the **** out of Hiddink.

Also, only a figure like Hiddink could bring back the fanbase, much of which has turned their backs on the KNT. The public outrage at the KFA is an all-time high and netizens openly criticize the KNT more so than ever before. Things got even worse with Kim Youngkwon’s unfortunate comments, STY’s (excuses) regarding his poor performances, and the whole celebrating-before-knowing-the-result-of-Iran-Syria issue. Hiddink is the figure who can bring the fans’ interest back, and unify the players, the KFA, and the public once more.

I like this argument as a whole but one minor detail bothers me – HMB should’ve had a similar effect, right? Now, players didn’t openly criticize HMB and apparently the players sided with HMB during the whole post-2014 fiasco, but I wonder if this “unifying the team under a leader we all idolize” may not have as big of an effect on performance as we may expect.

Perhaps it’s debatable how much the KNT would improve performance-wise, but the motivation, confidence, and unity would be much stronger under Hiddink than with HMB.
3. Save STY from the poisoned chalice.

This one’s big. HMB was the sacrificial lamb after the post-2014 WC. It wasn’t entirely his fault ofc – the KFA sort of forced him into taking charge and engineered this shitty situation. But HMB took the blame while the KFA cronies kept embezzling money … anyway. The point is, history is repeating itself. There’s an EXTREMELY high likelihood STY is going to become the sacrificial lamb this time.

STY also was reportedly suffering from insomnia with the pressure of having to qualify for the WC. Imagine the pressure he’ll feel when the actual WC happens.

This argument is one that everyone universally agrees on. Everyone’s worried STY is gonna suffer from the HMB effect after an inevitably-poor performance in 2018. There are people who say the lowered expectations might save him from the HMB effect but… the whole “expectations” argument is really contentious and can go multiple ways.

The problem with this argument, of course, is that Hiddink may also be inheriting a poison chalice (any manager who fails to produce results will) –  but more on that later.


4. Hiddink genuinely cares about Korea

Hiddink specifically stated he wants his managerial swansong to be with Korea. He is willing to take a massive pay-cut to do this. He’s refused a lot of offers since he was interim manager of Chelsea (China NT, Chinese teams, England NT, etc.) but refused them all. Also, most people are probably aware of the close ties Hiddink still has with Korea – the football charities and academies in Korea, the Guuseum in the Netherlands, etc. How poetic would it be if Hiddink ended his career with the team that made him so famous? (ok he was famous before 2002 with his PSV stint but still, he’s probably best known for his Korea stint, for better or for worse). It’s even more poetic considering that Hiddink also has fairly close ties to Russia (where the 2018 WC will be held).

We’d have an amazing feel-good story-we’ll-tell-our-grandkids story if Hiddink pulled off some miracle in 2018, but anyway.


5. Let’s spite Kim Hogon, the new public enemy

Kim Hogon lied about Hiddink’s interest, sparking outrage among fans. He also straight up cursed at Hiddink, referring to him as “새끼.” Tim posted a great article about this yesterday.

There are also vague recollections (from me, Tim, and ppl online) that originally, the plan was to have an interim manager for the WCQ’s then hire a foreign manger. Until Kim Hogon intervened and got STY to stay, who was supposed to study management in Europe.

For some reason I can’t find the source for this claim, but if it’s true, Kim Hogon is REALLY a poison to the KFA and would make us fans even more angry than we already are.



Issues with the arguments above:

1. Can Hiddink Really Improve this Team?

Given that there are literally only 8 games left before squad rosters are due (which means 4 training camps tops), can the new manager do anything? It’s less than a year until the World Cup starts. Most likely, whoever the manager is Korea will play terribly. I should also add the point that back then, we had two amazing defensive midfielders and three fantastic centerbacks. Without a single good DM and a single good CB, how much can Hiddink actually do? There are managers who can get the best out of not-so-talented players, and Hiddink may be one of them – Ferguson comes to mind of course but if you think about it our NT core played so much better in 2002 than we did in 1998-2001. But we don’t know if Hiddink has enough to work with right now.

That being said, with the time argument there is a good point to be made: in the space of just over a year Lippi and van Marjiwk have made some insane progress with China and Saudi Arabia, respectively. Hell, BvM got Saudi Arabia to qualify for the WC at the expense of Australia. Considering those squads suck even more than our squad does, maybe Hiddink would have enough time to make a difference. Who knows?

Verdict: I’m uncertain about this one – I’d think that at best, Hiddink could save us from embarrassment (i.e. respectable results, maybe a win and a draw, MAYBE a RO16 berth). But I’m not sure if there’s enough time – and the improvement may be minimal.


2. Expectations (perhaps the most contentious)

There are a lot of trains of thought about expectations. We talk about how STY needs to be spared, but what if the public turns on Hiddink? Who’s safe from something akin to what happened post-2014? I’m going to tl;dr some of the claims that I’ve seen made, all of which are plausible, but mutually contradictory.

Statement #1: Expectations are at an all time low [which is objectively true], ergo there’s not much to lose by hiring Hiddink.

BSK made this point multiple times:

We need Hiddink. If STY were smart, he would step down from the poison chalice leading the KNT to a WC out of self-preservation when someone of Hiddink’s stature offers to take the job. STY can go get his UEFA coaching licenses, serve as an assistant in Europe and get back to managing a club until the next WC cycle (after he’s gained requisite experiences). For Hiddink, this is the perfect time to take over the KNT. None of the wild expectations of WC06 lacking talent. None of the pressures of a talented squad in WC10. None of the false pretenses of a soft squad in WC14.

We’ve hit rock bottom. There are no expectations for this squad. Yet there is more talent in this squad than in the WC10 and WC14 squads. Even if Hiddink manages to make us play coherently, he will exit as a hero. Imagine if we got out of the group?

His reputation wouldn’t be affected at all. He’s coming into a shit situation and everyone knows it. As someone mentioned we’ve hit rock-bottom with our tepid and under-performing displays over the past several years. There’s nowhere to go but up. Besides, his rock-star status in Korea would be hard to dent no matter what. It’s like the established comedian rolling out weak material and still making people laugh because ‘that dude is hilarious.’ And when he does bring his A-game you know he’s bringing the house down.

But there’s a problem with Statement #1, because there’s an equally plausible Statement #2:

Statement #2: By hiring Hiddink would expectations skyrocket, and an inevitable poor performance at the WC would see Hiddink ruin his image – and no fan wants that.

In Korea, a national hero can turn into public enemy number one in a blink of an eye, so there’s a point to this. With the above two statements, I really don’t know which one is more accurate.


Let’s make things more confusing:

Statement #3: Because everyone knows this team sucks, STY might be saved from the HMB effect and the poisoned chalice.

This argument rarely gets made, but if you think about it, could also be true. I think most fans agree that STY is gonna have his reputation smeared in the case of a poor WC, especially after what happened in 2014. But with expectations even lower, is there a chance we don’t have to worry about a HMB effect?


Verdict: The Korean public sentiment is so unpredictable I don’t even know what to say. We hold an interest in saving STY’s career and saving Hiddink’s reputation. And I wonder if the only way to achieve both those goals is to hire a random foreign manager who isn’t Hiddink nor STY. The reality is, however, is that STY is probably going to stay.



Why Hiddink Should Not Be Our Next Manager:

I’ll be more succinct here because many of these points were covered already.

1. Hiddink only wanted to manage us if we qualified

This one is actually convincing. Hiddink was not willing to take over right when Stielike was fired, but if we were to qualify. I think that makes sense, but there is a case that STY was the one who accepted those two extremely high pressure games so if STY wishes to continue as manager, he should be allowed to.

That being said, I think pretty much any competent manager could’ve qualified us considering we drew 0-0 twice… but I still think this argument is valid.


2. Save Hiddink from the poisoned chalice

We all love Guus Hiddink for what he did for the country back in 2002, and it would be a shame to see Hiddink’s image go down in flames. There IS, I believe, a very high chance that Hiddink’s appointment would in fact raise expectations to unreasonable levels and lead to Hiddink being cursed at by the Korean public.


3. Very little time to make a difference – again, already covered.



Final thoughts:

Though most of the Tavern writers are against appointing Hiddink for 2018, I personally believe that for every solid argument for bringing in Hiddink there’s a solid argument against it. I think we should just accept the fact that STY will in all likelihood be our next manager and cheer him on. But it is interesting to think about what could’ve happened had Hiddink made a comeback to the team, right?

About Jinseok 260 Articles
Diehard Korean football fan.


  1. I knew STY looked like a zombie during those two qualifiers. Insomnia makes sense. I wouldn’t want the job either. Dude looked so alive and charismatic teaching the underage teams. Against Iran and Uzbekistan, he looked like Choi Kang Hee

    • And on top of that, Shin Tae-Yong had like only 2-3 months to prepare for the 2 remaining World Cup Qualifiers.

      Let’s let STY coach our NT with the least drama as possible. STY deserves a full & fair opportunity for the 2018 WC

      • Shin worked as a coach under ULI… he is fully aware of this team and should have done better. He failed to get a win when we needed it most. You may think he deserves a chance, but the last two games showed me why he doesn’t.

  2. Koreans need to move on from 2002. Hiddink isn’t some Korean magician.- yes the 4th place finish was amazing but home field advantage really helped and so did low expectations. He hasn’t had that level of success since then, and I don’t think there’s a chance he can repeat it (even with a “more talented” squad). I agree that it’s better to leave it as a great memory and not screw Hiddink’s reputation.
    Having said all of that, if I were STY I might let Hiddink take this one and get more experience/better timing before becoming the full-time coach lol. In the long run it might be a better move for him.

    • This right here I don’t understand…. This isn’t about 2002 and none of us expect a repeat of that. We want a respectable showing which is more probable with a respectable manager (Hiddink) than an inexperienced domestic manager (Shin). Hiddink is a legend and will forever be remembered for 2002. Maybe you’re a paper fan that’ll turn your back on him if he fails in 2018, but real fans wouldn’t.

      And I agree about STY stepping down to gain more experience. That’s what he should have done already so Hiddink can start building this team with the friendlies against Russia/Tunisia. STY should step the fuck down ASAP.

      • Are you sure about that? People said the same about Hong Myeong Bo and he got yeot thrown at him at the airport after the last World Cup, and he had even less time than Shin Tae Yong will have.
        Switching to a different sport, Park Tae Hwan was a god a few years back in Korea and next thing you know this is him:
        I love Hiddink and the 2002 team but that was 15 years ago. Don’t be so sure about fan loyalty if Korea crashes out in the group stage, that’s all I’m saying.

        • And to be clear, I’m not sure what the better option is going forward. The Hiddink connection has come out of left field- I think the team has always thought it would be STY. How would a sudden change affect the team? If insiders believe that it affected them positively, I’d be all for it. And if Hiddink takes over, I’ll definitely hope he can pull off great things.
          My only argument here is about Korean fans. I know that in the long run, people SHOULD appreciate what Hiddink did in 2002 no matter what happens. But I really have my doubts about that..

          • Understood. My consideration goes strictly to the KNT performance and not the fickle mind of Korean fans. My point is not all Korean fans think/react the same way.

            In terms of KNT performance, I’m confident Hiddink can manage better than Shin.

          • Haha yes I think most would agree Hiddink >> Shin. But unless STY resigns on his own and Kim Hogon is somehow fired as KFA president, Hiddink is likely not going to happen

  3. What the heck are you guys drinking at the Tavern?

    A world class manager is offering his services and you want to stick with SHIN Tae Yong?! SHIN, who failed to get us a win in the last two qualifiers against 10 man Iran and a crap Uzbek side. If Uzbek beat China we wouldn’t even be in the WC (we ain’t beating AUS and USA with SHIN) We were lucky to qualify and I give no credit to SHIN. Even ULI could have gotten us two draws!

    Any fan of Hiddink’s 2002 legacy will continue to respect it regardless of the 2018 result. Have any of you goofs lost respect for HMB’s contribution to our 2002 glory run because of the 2014 failure? Have any of you goofs lost respect for HMB’s 2012 Olympic glory run because of the 2014 failure? They are separate tournaments and I don’t agree with this silly sentiment of protecting Hiddink’s legacy. I don’t have time to worry about a legacy when our team is now 2nd tier in Asia. IN FUCKING ASIA!

    Very little time? World class managers can manage. (ie. China beat us and Uzbek, Saudi beat Japan)
    SHIN can’t even beat two Asian sides in a DO or DIE scenario. He’s shown us his limitations. SHIN should swallow his pride and step the fuck down. The only good SHIN is SHIN Ramyun.


    • 1. Though I’m personally open to Hiddink taking charge (I’m kinda torn between which is worse), the consensus towards STY is that leaving STY in charge would be the lesser of two evils – correct me if I’m wrong, Jae/Roy/Tim
      2. None of us have lost respect for HMB for 2002, but the general Korean public has
      3. I think it would be devastating if Hiddink were to start being reviled by the Korean public after a poor 2018 campaign – it’s a real possibility.
      4. China and Saudi had more time than we do now. van Marjiwk and Lippi had almost 2 years (Hiddink would have less than 1) and more than twice as many games as we will have (8). Sure, if we get someone like Mourinho or Guardiola or Hiddink we would in theory improve dramatically just from the tactics/organization, but how much further than that? Is the improvement just from that worth the risks? If the “in theory” holds true then yes. But even world class managers have been shown in the past to not dramatically improve a team instantaneously. Think Man U for example. David Moyes Man U was pretty bad, Van Gaal’s was just as bad, Mourinho’s first season was also pretty bad, and only this season do they look solid (and even that might be attributable to Lukaku’s form)
      5. lol shin ramyun and even that’s not that good

      • 1. I don’t understand why it’s a case of lesser of two evils. One is a proven manager with loads of experience (including WC experience) and the other is a somewhat inexperienced coach who showed in the last two qualifiers he’s not ready. He couldn’t sleep against ASIAN opposition? His “attacking style of football” couldn’t muster a single goal against Asian opposition?

        2. Real fans will not lose respect for the achievements of the past. If some paper fans want to make Hiddink public enemy#1 for a failed 2018 campaign then so be it. Definitely not a good reason NOT to give this man his farewell stint.

        3. Again, we revel in HMB’s 2002 glory/2012 Olympic glory, but understand 2014 was a separate failure. If HMB walked into the room, I doubt any of us would turn our backs. Do we judge PJS based on his poor last seasons with Queens Park Rangers/PSV? Absolutely not. Hiddink, PJS, HMB are legends… I doubt a failed 2018 campaign is going to flush Hiddink’s legacy down the drain.

        4. Lippi was coach for China for about 1 year and already we see improvement in their team. They beat us, Uzbek, Qatar… The same three teams they lost to before Lippi’s arrival. That’s what a world class manager can do. Hiddink is no stranger to Korean football. I believe he’s more than capable of bringing change in this little time.

        It could have been a different story if the KNT performed well under Shin… but the fans are frustrated after watching two very frustrating games under Shin. We want Hiddink and Hiddink wants us. NO Cockblocking!

        • I think the problem here is that you can’t displace Shin Taeyong at this point. He went through great personal risk to qualify for the World Cup, put his career on the line basically. And he made it out. You can’t kick him out now. In any other professional circle that would be absurd. It is in this case also.

          My disagreement with the situation is how the KFA tried to cover it up and how they seem to have picked Shin Taeyong until the WC over Hiddink from after to qualified until the WC. Though it was tricky, a lot of managers, in my view, could have gotten us the two points we needed to qualify. Huh Jungmoo could have too. They was a way to do this, and the KFA didn’t even try. That’s my issue.

          But you can’t displace a manager who just got hired. That’s not how that works.

          • I’m hoping there would be some tact involved, but I’ve lost faith in the KFA.

            In all honesty, I was hoping Shin would take the hint (as majority of Korean fans are calling for Hiddink to manage) and step down voluntarily. Not only so he can learn under Hiddink (if he wanted to coach), but because this is what the people want. If I were Shin, I’d be embarrassed that we barely qualified after that frustrating display. I’d see the two draws as a failure, swallow my pride, and step down. Especially because this is coupled with a world class manager offering his services to Korea.

            Shin worked as an interim manager before so he stepping down or being asked to step down isn’t impossible. And the personal risk he took? That’s what managers do… they are putting their careers on the line whenever/wherever they manage. Let’s face it.. he’s too inexperienced for the World Cup. I was just surprised that the majority of the Tavern think we should stick with Shin. I still don’t get it…. if none of my points in this comment thread swayed opinion then I’ll just agree to disagree.

  4. I’ll add a new comment for my thoughts since the threads are quite long already (sorry don’t check the comments that often).

    I was – for the record – one of the Tavern writers against Hiddink coming back, and I’ll try to explain why. The tl;dr version is I see a lot of downside risk and minimal upside benefit to Hiddink coming back.

    I’ll agree with (probably) all that Hiddink >>> STY. What Hiddink may do is help SHM to find some form when he pulls on the Korea shirt. He might be able to find a decent partner for KSY in midfield. He might provide some more tactical acumen and stability to the team. But Hiddink cannot fix all the underlying problems with the KNT. He cannot make KSY, LCY suddenly start playing at their clubs and finding great form. He cannot alter the steady decline of the Korean domestic game (K League). He cannot get the country’s above average to good players to not to go the Mid East leagues and lower CSL sides. He cannot suddenly find us a good rightback or center forward. Bc lets face it, the current side does not compare to the 2002 team. There is no LWJ, HMB, CJC, PJS, LYP, CDR, AJH, CYS, HSH in this side. KSY is very good on his day, and we know what SHM is capable of. HHC offers hope going forward. But the backline is crap. The right side is crap. And its not crap bc STY just made a bad choice of tactics or selection (although some were questionable), but the player pool and situation there is just… bad.

    So when I try to square all that together, I think with an average group draw maybe instead of being a team everyone else wants, we can be a side that cause a few problems here and there, maybe bow out “respectably” in third place or something. How much is that worth? To some, maybe that’s quite a bit. To me that’s very little. If Hiddink really wants to be manager again then I would prefer that he takes over after the World Cup when he can build this side up the way he wants. Tbh though, I would prefer that Hiddink use his considerable standing in Korea to work in the KFA at a high level position to help push through some reforms to the whole system (maybe he can tow PJS and LYP with him).

    As for some of the other points:
    – Legacy: I think it takes a hit. Not as much as HMB, but some of the shine and luster will come off. There is now of course a generation that did not see 2002, but has just heard the stories and seen the pictures and videos. There’s no way Hiddink can live up to the hype. If Hiddink comes, the expectation is to make it out of the group (for the average ‘fan’).

    – HMB comparison: HMB’s player reputation is very much intact. He remains “The Eternal Libero” for Koreans. But as a manager, yeah it’s in the toilet (he hasn’t done much to repair it over in China). Few remember the Olympics bc rightly or wrongly, Koreans live for the World Cup and World Cup only. I think 2002 will remain a good memory for Koreans, but again unless Hiddink gets Korea out of the group, some of the shine comes off.

    – KFA: Ideally, the KFA tells STY you can manage the 2 qualifiers but if we get to Russia, we’re going with Guus. But that didn’t happen of course. So, I’m a little confused by people who say we want the KFA to do the right thing and be a respectable organization and stuff, and then say they should change the manager now, despite STY having been told (and presumably contracted) through the World Cup, bc Hiddink lifted the lid that KFA rejected him. STY was told “get us to Russia, and you get your shot”. He did and while it was ugly af he still did it. You want KFA to be respectable? Then they need to follow through on their word and give STY a chance to do his job.

    – STY: STY would an absolute IDIOT for stepping down just for Hiddink to take over. This may be a once in a lifetime chance for him to manage at a World Cup, and bc his first two games in charge were poor he should move aside? If he quits for Hiddink he may as well just stop fucking coaching cuz he doesn’t have the balls to manage a top-flight club side or an international side.

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