Welcome to a continuation on the regular series on The 94th Minute, called “Starting XI”. This is where I ask various people, who are fans of football, a number of questions to get to know them better! The majority of the questions will differ for each person, but the final question will always be:
“Who would be in your all-time, favourite starting XI?”
This is a question where anyone can be put into their starting eleven, whether they are famous footballers, football legends, past or unknown players who had an impact on their childhood, or even players they have played with or coached. Anyone is acceptable in their XI providing they give a reason for their inclusion!
The twenty-third instalment of the series is with Michael Redmond, a Korean-based writer, who is a Manchester United supporter and is K League United‘s Seoul E-Land correspondent (as well as being a huge supporter of The Leopards). I interviewed Michael to find out how and why he became a fan of the Leopards, how he got involved in writing for K League United, his opinion on Seoul E-Land’s rather disappointing season, and his all-time favourite eleven players.
To see Michael’s review of Seoul E-Land’s season on K League United, it can be found in the following link:
Q. Thanks very much for getting involved with the Starting XI series! Firstly, how did you get involved in supporting Seoul E-Land and why did you choose them as your Korean team?
I arrived in Korea back in June 2017, yet it was only until August when I saw my first Seoul E-Land game. Being a football fan in general, I just went around different stadiums, watching teams before I stumbled on Seoul E-Land. My first game was a 1-1 draw with Seongnam. Not exactly a classic, but they played exciting football for me. They were the rebel club, the underdog team in the second division. Seoul E-Land gave me the motive to go back, where other teams just didn’t do it for me.
Q. Could you give the readers some information on how you got involved with K League United and became their Seoul E-Land correspondent?
Funnily enough, we all met over a beer. K League United like to have a lot of watch parties and FIFA tournaments (I am the only writer to have won a FIFA tournament!), so I just went down to see what’s going on. It was January 2018 when we were talking about Seoul E-Land, and they asked the question, “Well they don’t have a writer right now, wanna join us?” So I started to go to games more religiously from there on in. Due to my involvement with KLU (K League United), a liking for Seoul E-Land, suddenly turned into love. I have just last week purchased my second flag for the side, which will be taken everywhere I go. My ‘Manchester Leopards‘ flag now has a ‘My Love, My Heart, My Seoul‘ flag to accompany it.
Q. How do you think E-Land’s season went this year? Are there any positives or negatives you can take from it?
It was diabolical! The club really disappointed, and let the fans down this year. They had such a terrible defence, which conceded 71 goals. Also, we did not play in Seoul for the majority of the season. Our normal home, the Seoul (Jamsil) Olympic Stadium, was getting work on it, so our new home was over two hours away in Cheonan. They finished last in the second division for the second season in a row.
To take any positives from Seoul E-Land, it would have to come from the fans. I made 30 out of the 39 games in 2019. The fans have been very supportive of me and helped me along the way. With lifts to the ground, some chicken and beer before the game or even just to help me start a chant. There are a few fans I consider very good friends, and they defiantly know who they are.
Q. Are you enthusiastic about next season under the management of Chung Jung-yong? Which areas do think need improving before next season starts?
I am once again optimistic about Seoul E-Land next year, but it’s the optimism that kills you. Chung Jung-yong is at the wheel, and I finally feel like we’re turning in the right direction. For us to succeed next year, we need to completely gut out the defence and start again. No one in that defence last year deserves to stay there. They need to also involve young players into the side, who can carry the side in years to come. We buy and sell players a lot, no one really stays at Seoul E-Land for a long time. Seoul need to get some foundations built, and players the fans can trust.
Q. If you could make any improvements to the K League or Korean football in general, what would they be and why?
The kick off times can be a real pain at times. Every league has midweek games, I understand that. However, they will have Seoul sometimes play over on the other side of Korea on a Monday night, I would never be able to get to that. I also feel like a lot of Koreans only like European football, and not their own product. I have had it a lot where I’ve had to explain Korean football to Korean people. They should have pride in their league, the only way the standard of football is going to improve here, is if more people take note of the league itself.
Q. If someone wanted to come to South Korea to watch some K League action, where would you say are the best places or teams to watch football?
Well, being slightly biased, I would always say go to Seoul E-Land first! In and around the surrounding areas of Seoul, there are a lot of teams that you can get to on the Subway. Going further down the country, you have the likes of Jeonbuk, who are the best team in Korea over the last few years. I also highly suggest a Busan IPark match. They play good football and recently got promoted to the top tier. Also, Busan is a very nice seaside city with a lot to see and do. It was the first time this year I’ve ever had a swim in the sea before a game! Every team do different things in the stadium to attract fans, so you would not be disappointed no matter where you ended up.
Q. Is there anyone in Seoul E-Land, the K League, or South Korea in general, that you think people should keep an eye out for – who are the next big stars from Korea?
I normally focus all my time and attention on the K League 2, so the top tier surprisingly is a bit alien to me. However, there is one player who caught my attention this year, and that was Felipe. The Brazilian plays for newly promoted side Gwangju, and he tore the league apart this year. He scored 19 goals in 27 appearances and was influential in Gwangju’s promotion. He has also committed to a new contract with the side as well, so it will be exciting to see how he fairs in the top tier, where the big boys play.
Q. What has been the best match or moment that you have encountered since following Seoul E-Land?
There are countless games which I have very fond memories of. However, there were two moments which stood out for me. The first one was back in 2018, we played on a Monday night down in the Olympic stadium against Ansan Greeners. After going a goal down, E-Land equalised. They then went on to score the winner in the last kick of the game. Cha Jae-wan was the hero that night for us. We were singing and dancing in the streets of Seoul until the early hours that night. The second moment I can never forget was later on in 2018, around October time. We had an away game down at Seongnam, who were chasing for the title at the time. Even after a poor season, we managed to snatch a win from them. It was a brilliant moment, topped off with getting a taxi back into Seoul to finish off the KLU FIFA tournament.
Q. Switching to England briefly, how do you think Manchester United’s season is going so far? Is Ole Gunnar Solskjær still the right man ‘at the wheel’, or is it time for a change of management?
I haven’t answered a Manchester United question in years! I have love for Seoul E-Land, but Manchester United is in my blood. I think Ole is starting to pull it together over at Old Trafford. The Norwegian is playing a lot of youth in his side, which is the DNA of Manchester United. Liverpool are running away with the league this year, however the Premier League is improving in quality each year.
It looks like a year where we will be chasing top four, but we are doing well in the Europa League, and are still in the League Cup as well. These are types of trophies United need to stay relevant in the football world, as I can’t see another Premier League title coming to the red side of Manchester for a number of years. If we change the gaffer now, we will have to start from the beginning again. Getting someone in like Mauricio Pochettino, will benefit the club, but Ole needs time.
Q. Finally, who would be in your all-time, favourite starting XI and the reasons for your picks?
All Time XI (Formation 3-4-3)
Kim Young-kwang – I have watched a lot of great goalkeepers in my time, Edwin Van Der Sar almost got this spot. However, on passion alone, ‘Glory’ as he goes by, takes it. A Korean who has a lot of time for the fans and a true love for Seoul E-Land. He recognises the regulars in the stands, and makes an effort to talk with them, including myself. A good goalkeeper as well, he has Asian Champions League honours with Ulsan Hyundai, and he has been the backbone for Seoul E-Land over the last five years.
Rio Ferdinand & Nemanja Vidic – These two come as a pair. They were the men at the back for United ten years ago. No one messed with these two at the time, and their mentality at times won United a lot of games.
Sergio Ramos – A very good player who will do anything to win a game. He doesn’t have the best discipline, but what a player to rub the opponents the wrong way. You need someone like that on your side.
Park Ji-sung – What a player, he is the reason I am in Korea in the first place! I wanted to see what South Korea was like and fell in love with the place. After finally visiting Korea in March 2017, I went home, quit my job, and got my visa sorted to move here. A quick, and energetic Korean. Fantastic stamina and pace. One of the first Asian players to win the Champions League with Manchester United, he is my all-time favourite player.
Cha Jae-wan – A young and very good Korean player. He was at Seoul E-Land in 2018, before his move to K League 1 side, Gangwon. Very talented and a lot of skill, he carried Seoul for a lot of the time last year.
Paul Scholes – There are none better than him in the middle of the park. Scholes had the precision of a sniper with his passing. My finest memory of Scholes was that thundershot against Barcelona in the semi-final of the 2008 Champions League. I was stood in the second tier of the Stretford End and had a perfect view of the brilliant strike.
Andres Iniesta – Once again, a fantastic player for Barcelona. A lot of skill went into his game. He could send a ball anywhere on the pitch.
Cristiano Ronaldo – It was breathtaking watching him play. He is a true great, and all round professional on the football pitch. Ronaldo was always there when United needed him, and although he has had the majority of his career at Madrid, It was Manchester United who gave him his first glimpse of glory.
Wayne Rooney – Again, although he slowed down a lot in the later stages of his Manchester United career, but when he was on form, he was electric. I especially remember the 2009/10 season, when he turned the Premier League on his head. He just could not stop scoring, so he deservedly is placed in my team.
Robert Lewandowski – Talk about a man who can get a goal out of anywhere. What a brilliant player Lewandowski is. A man who plays with pride when he lines up for Poland, the Bayern Munich striker gets the job done, season after season.
A massive thank you to Michael for answering my questions, and being a superb guest on the Starting XI series! He produces many fantastic articles on Seoul E-Land on the KLU website, so please check them out. There is an especially brilliant article which summed up his entire season following the Leopards, which can be found HERE. There are also some brilliant choices in his starting eleven, and surprisingly he’s the first person to pick Robert Lewandowski!
To find out more about Michael, the links to his social media accounts can be found below:
- KLU Website: http://www.kleagueunited.com/
- Twitter: @BMRKorea
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/redmond1994/
To read or catch up on the previous Starting XI episodes, they can all be found at the following link HERE.
If there you have any feedback, comments or suggestions who I should interview next in the series, let me know either below in the comments box, tweet me @The94thMin or email me at email@example.com! It would be good to hear what you think about the series, and what have been your favourite episodes so far!