Lee Jung-hyo doesn’t smile after leading Gwangju FC to new history…

After leading Gwangju FC to a new history in professional soccer’s K League 1, Lee Jung-hyo confessed that despite his joy, he feels a sense of crisis when he thinks about next season.

Gwangju played a goalless draw against the Pohang Steelers in the 38th round of the Hana One Q K League 1 at the Gwangju Football Stadium on March 3.

With a final record of 16 wins, 11 draws, and 11 losses this season, Gwangju (59 points) clinched third place, ahead of fourth-place Jeonbuk Hyundai (57 points).

With the win, Gwangju clinched a spot in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League Elite (ACLE) Playoffs (PO). If they lose in the PO, they will receive a ticket to the Champions League 2 (ACL2).

The club’s first-ever appearance in the Asian club competition also marks the highest finish and win total in the club’s history.

Prior to this season, Gwangju’s best finish in the top flight was sixth place in the 2020 season, which ended early due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the most wins in a season was 11 in 2016 (eighth place).

In the post-match press conference, Lee lamented that they were unable to capitalize on their numerical advantage following Lee Ho-jae’s departure, but welcomed the news, saying, “Finishing the season in third place and going to Asia will be comforting for the home fans.”

However, Lee cautioned that this season’s achievements do not mean a bright future.

“It’s a crisis now. “Next year, everybody is going to be ready for us, and we’re going to get a lot of inquiries for our young players because we’ve made it to the ACL,” Lee said, “and the fight to keep them or not to keep them has already started.

“I think it’s an opportunity, but also a really tough crisis. I don’t have a goal for next year yet, but I want to do better than third place, I want to go up rather than down, and I don’t want to stay down,” he said.

Lee emphasized that the time has come to improve the environment surrounding the team, especially the players.

“Gwangju has been in existence for 13 years, but we don’t have a training center for the players to train freely. I hope they will build a training center now.” “More than anything else, it’s good that they ordered a change in the environment. I think it means a lot to me, to the players, and to the club.”

“I told the players at the beginning (of the season), ‘Let’s make them do something for us,’ rather than expecting us to do something for them,” he said. “I think we have to do this much. I think we have to do a lot of things,” he laughed.

He continued, “If we don’t, I wonder what the people of Gwangju and the fans will say. I hope you will keep an eye on whether we build the stadium and training center or not.”

Along with Gwangju’s progress this season, Lee’s leadership has been increasingly recognized and his stature in Korean football has risen significantly.

“I don’t know much about it, but there were many rumors. It’s all rumors,” he said, adding, “No one has officially offered me (the head coaching job).”

“I haven’t talked to the club about renewing my contract. I will think about it,” he added. Under his existing contract, Lee will remain with Gwangju until 2024. 사설토토

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