Coach Luke Sainsbury’s reflection on his full season as the Phnom Penh Crown coach

Coach Luke Sainsbury offered his reflection on his full season as the Phnom Penh Crown coach after parting company with the six-time champions.

The Englishman, who joined Phnom Penh Crown just before the end of last season, didn’t have a great season with the city-based club this season after his side finished fifth in the Metfone Cambodian League and crashed out of the Hun Sen Cup quarter final.

Phnom Penh Crown aimed to build their team around young local players with the help from foreign players, so it made it hard for Coach Luke Sainsbury to help the team challenge for the trophies.

However, Phnom Penh Crown did have an impressive final league match as they defeated their bitter rivals Boeung Ket 2-1 at the National Olympic Stadium thanks to Orn Chanpolin and Valci Junior’s nice strike.

Coach Luke Sainsbury told TheMorning: “With my time at Phnom Penh Crown coming to an end, I’ve had time to reflect on the season. I think everyone knows that the results could have been better. I was given the freedom to sign players for the season and after Jorrin John’s injury and Pouya being moved to centre back after an unsuccessful stint playing as a striker, we were left with 3 foreign centre backs and one foreign attacking midfield player. Far from ideal and a mistake that I accept full responsibility for, which ultimately was the main factor in us not being able to compete higher up the league table.

“I thought we played some very good football at times this season and were also inconsistent, but overall the results did not fairly reflect how well we played. I think the game against Boeung Ket in the first leg sums up our season. We played a great game, had lots of chances but could not score enough of them. We made some mistakes due to a lack of experience. The referee played a part in all three of their goals and at the final whistle I verbally abused the match officials and the coaching staff and players of Boeungket. That pretty much sums up our season. Results wise more low points than high points.

“There seems to be a feeling that Phnom Penh Crown FC are currently going through a bad time in the club’s history. I understand the club has had a lot of success in the past, however, I do not agree this is a low point for the club. For me, I see it as an extremely exciting period in the club’s history. Over 20 academy products in the first team squad who were all teenagers at the start of season is unmatched anywhere in the world I would have thought. The fact they are expected to win the league is testament to how good these young players are and the hard work, so many have put in to helping them develop over the years.

“What the club have done by promoting them to the first team and giving them the opportunity to gain valuable experience at such a young age will have a positive impact in the future. These players, if kept together, will be champions within the next few years, and once they reach that height, they’ll dominate Cambodian football for a decade. So I feel the fans should get behind them and stay positive while they gain experience and brace themselves for a lot of success in the future.

“I would like to thank the owners and management of the club for giving me the job and trusting me in that position. I’d like to thank all the staff at the club who work hard to help the club exist. I’d also like to thank the real die-hard fans who come to watch the team and cheer and support the team win, lose or draw.

“I want to thank the players for their hard work and commitment to the team and commitment to me. I would like to make a special mention about the club’s Cambodian players. I’m sure the foreign players will support me when I say they are truly an amazing group of human beings. From day one, they welcomed me and made me feel at home and wanted. They worked hard and performed incredibly well especially when you remember how young they are.

“However, their football characteristics are a small part of what they have given me over the past year. It has been a privilege to have been able to spend so much time with them. Amazingly interesting, charismatic and funny people. They are a fantastic advert for Cambodian people and Cambodian football and deserve so much more respect, gratitude and money than they currently get. I hope the club recognise this and reward them with new and much improved contracts that they deserve. I wish the team and the club good luck for next season.”

Photo courtesy of Phnom Penh Crown FC