Former A-League championship winning coach Mike Mulvey has returned to South-East Asia, signing on with Thai League 1 club BEC Tero Sasana.
The Bangkok club wasted no time pouncing on Mulvey after he was overlooked at the final stage for the Newcastle Jets job, where club chief executive Lawrie McKinna instead decided to sign ex-Wellington Phoenix boss Ernie Merrick.
Mulvey will become the second Australian coach in Thailand’s top tier, joining ex-Olyroos boss Aurelio Vidmar, who is in charge of glamour club Bangkok Glass – one of BEC Tero’s rivals in the capital.
But the 54-year old Mulvey is taking the reigns from the displaced Uthai Boonmoh at a difficult time, with the club in 10th position in the 18-team league at the half-way point of the season, having lost form in recent months after a strong start. They are presently winless in their past five games, three of which were losses.
However, Mulvey – who was also approached for jobs in his native England and elsewhere in Asia – said BEC Tero Sasana’s reputation and ambition ultimately swayed him to sign on.
“As soon as the club made contact, I was really intrigued by what they were proposing. BEC Tero Sasana is one of the biggest teams in Thailand historically and it was the owner who convinced me that the team can be really competitive once again,” he told The World Game. “However, it won't be easy because Thai football is riding a major wave of investment and the top six teams are some of the most powerful in the whole region.
“That level of investment has meant the quality of foreign players in Thailand has really sky-rocketed in recent years and the standards among local players are continuing to rise. The fight for talent is red hot. It is a seriously strong league and it’s exciting to be a part of it.”
This will be Mulvey’s third stint in the region, having previously worked in Malaysia with Sabah FA and Terengganu. While Thailand’s booming league is arguably a step up, Mulvey can’t wait to get started.
“The challenge for us is to compete fiercely in the short-term and then ultimately look at new ways to find an advantage long-term,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to make us the most tactically advanced team in the country and the best prepared. I want to bring a different level of professionalism and focus – forming a culture where the players are relish working hard every day.
“Looking at the squad, there’s some good players there but we might need to think about where we can source some talent in key areas, especially in attack. I want to play an entertaining, high-energy style of football and I’ll be looking for players capable of fitting that bill.”
BEC Tero Sasana became a household name in Thai football in the early 2000s, wining the domestic league back-to-back in 2000-1 and 2001-2, before finishing runner-up in the subsequent two seasons.
They also finished runner-up in the first revamped AFC Champions League tournament in 2003, beaten only by UAE powerhouses Al-Ain. They were also runners-up in the ASEAN Club Championship in the same year. A surprise victory over Buriram United in the Thai League Cup final in 2014 has been their only taste of glory in the years since.
Earlier this year, the Fire Dragons made the decision to merge with Police United, which the club ultimately hopes will spark an upturn of fortunes in the coming years.