NAMHAE, South Korea, Jan. 13 (Yonhap) -- With FC Seoul having gone through a topsy-turvy 2021 season that included a coaching change, new bench boss An Ik-soo decided to give some of his veterans extra rest before the starting of offseason training camp.
Conspicuous by their absences at FC Seoul's camp in Namhae, some 500 kilometers south of the capital city, are some of the club's most recognizable names: midfielders Ki Sung-yueng and Go Yohan, and forward Ji Dong-won.
"They endured so much more than I did last year, and I wanted to keep them off the field for a bit longer," An said in an interview Wednesday. "Those guys had to shoulder so much burden and really carry this club. I wish I had given them even more time to rest."
FC Seoul dropped to last place at one point in the season, prompting head coach Park Jin-sub to resign. An took over in September and guided the late push that saw FC Seoul finish the season in seventh place among 12 clubs, safely out of the relegation zone.
Apparently, though, those veterans haven't heeded the coach's advice this winter.
"I've heard that those players have been working out on their own, even harder than some players at camp here," An said with a smile. "Maybe I should have just brought them here with the rest of the team. I appreciate their drive and determination, but I am also worried."
FC Seoul are also missing some youngsters who have been called up to training camps for the senior and under-23 national teams. An, who once coached the men's under-19 national team, said he understands that calling up players from clubs during their own camps can be a tricky business.
"It's an honor for both players themselves and clubs to have them represent the country," An said. "If they can take the next step as players after training with the national team staff, then it's all positive for us, too."
FC Seoul have kept busy this offseason shoring up their squad, with former Australian international Ben Halloran being a notable acquisition.
"I am hoping for even more signings this winter," An said. "I think our new players can create synergy with the incumbent guys and work toward the same goal."
An said the first phase of camp will wrap up Thursday, and the second stage will begin next Monday.
"I haven't yet told the players exactly what my goal is, but I think we all understand we have to try to meet our fans' expectations," An said. "Once we have everyone at camp next week, then we can start talking about our goal and vision."