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 By Paul Murphy

Ex-England defender Gary Stevens becomes Ubon coach in Thailand

Jason Dasey and PJ Roberts evaluate Australia's World Cup group and assess whether they or any other Asian teams can progress.
 

Former England and Tottenham Hotspur defender Gary Stevens is set for a new challenge in Thai football as he takes on the role of head coach at Ubon UMT United in 2018.

Ubon will be Stevens' third Thai League (T1) club, having previously managed Army United and Port FC.

Stevens was in charge at Army United for the second half of the 2014 season and led them to their best ever start to a T1 season in 2015 before a run of three defeats saw him "rested" and then released.

Stevens had brought Singapore keeper Hassan Sunny to the club, with Hassan subsequently staying for two years before Army were relegated in 2016. The ex-S.League player of the year was recently given a new deal to return to the same club in 2018.

Meanwhile, Stevens soon found another job and took over at struggling Port FC. While he managed to improve the team's performances, the club's directors soon lost patience with the failure to demonstrate immediate improvement in results.

Sunday lunch on the road in Thailand 🙏

A post shared by Gary Stevens (@garystevensuk) on

After one win in seven games, Stevens was sacked, but Port's hire-and-fire culture failed as two further coaching changes that year could not prevent relegation.

At Ubon, Stevens follows in the footsteps of another Englishman, with Scott Cooper having led the Eagles into T1 with two successive promotions.

The club's first T1 campaign saw them finish in a very respectable 10th spot, and they completed famous home and away victories over 2016 champions Muang Thong United.

While Cooper moves on to a new destination as yet unknown, Stevens has much to live up to. He will have his work cut out as Ubon have seen the departure of inspirational captain and defender Victor Cardozo.

German playmaker Bajram Nebihi has also moved on, while Thailand striker Siroch Chatthong and promising young defender Chalermsak Aukkee left midway through the 2017 campaign.

Ubon will have to add some quality to their squad in order to maintain their mid-table position at the very least.

After more than two years out of club management, Stevens should come back refreshed. But from his own experience, the man who played in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico will be well aware of the need to hit the ground running.

Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK

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