Former DPMM FC centre-back Tales Ricarte dos Santos (L) posing with Phuket FC's banner following his release from DPMM FC at the end of last season. The defensive specialist scored 11 goals during his time with Brunei's only professional football club. Courtesy of Tales Ricarte dos Santos
Former DPMM FC centre-back Tales Ricarte dos Santos (L) kisses the trophy after helping the club win the Singapore League Cup in August, 2012. The Brazilian currently plays for Phuket FC following his release from DPMM FC at the end of last season. BT file
Former DPMM FC centre-back Tales Ricarte dos Santos thinks that the club have already improved under new coach Steve Kean.
The ex-Blackburn Rovers manager took over from 2012 S-League Coach of the Year Vjeran Simunic last November and made his DPMM FC coaching debut at last month's three-team 2014 Phuket Saksee Cup in Thailand.
Dos Santos, who joined DPMM FC at the start of the 2012 Singapore League (S-League) season but was released at the end of last season, got a first-hand look at Kean's methods during DPMM FC's match against Phuket FC - where the Brazilian now plies his trade.
Not only are training sessions different everyday, Kean has also brought in a high-pressing, fast-passing style of play - and a shift in formation from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2.
"The team have changed their style from the last coach," observed dos Santos.
"DPMM FC have smart training, smart tactics and their discipline on the field is also good.
"I think with Kean the team can be much better now, and I wish them luck for 2014," added the 29-year-old.
DPMM FC start their S-League campaign against Japanese side Albirex Niigata (S) FC at the Jurong East Stadium in Singapore tomorrow and the trip to Phuket, where they won their first game 3-1 against Nakhon Si Heritage before falling 2-0 to dos Santos' Phuket FC, was part of their pre-season training.
They also notched a 0-0 draw against Malaysia FA Cup champions Kelantan on Jan 31.
"It was a good, hard game, and we scored two first half goals and kept the lead," said dos Santos of the 2-0 win which saw the defender sent off, as well as DPMM FC midfielder Azwan Ali Rahman in a separate incident.
Dos Santos could usually be found in the centre of defence partnering Pg Sallehuddin Pg Hj Damit during his two years at DPMM FC.
But with veteran defender Pg Sallehuddin also out of the club, it is now up to Bosnian defender Boris Raspudic and Shahrulrizal Abd Rahman to marshal the back line and chip in with the goals whenever possible.
Dos Santos, who scored 11 times in his DPMM FC career, was an aerial threat and often pushed forward late in games when the team were chasing a result - especially during last season's dismal campaign which saw them finish eighth.
But when his contact was not renewed, the Brazilian got the call to play for Phuket FC from the team's coach and countryman Stefano Cugurra - his arrival at the Thai Division 1 (second tier) club made easier since there are three other Brazilian players in the squad.
Despite being deemed surplus to DPMM FC's requirements this season, dos Santos said his departure has not been a bitter one.
"Of course, I was so happy to see my friends from Brunei," he said when asked about reuniting with his old teammates last month.
"I spent two years with them and we have a good friendship," he said.