Coach of two former ASEAN nations (Thailand and Laos), a Suzuki Cup silver medal winner, and an SEA Games gold winner as coach of the Vietnam women’s national team, legendary coach Steve Darby knows all about Southeast Asian football, having also coached in Singapore (Home United) and Malaysia (Johor Darul Ta’zim and Perak) in a heaving C.V.

The Englishman, who most recently coached in Laos, spoke to the about his views and opinions on the upcoming 2018 edition draw in Jakarta.

The format of the tournament has changed this year, with the teams playing two matches at home and two matches away – how do you think those changes will impact the competition?

I think it’s a great idea especially for the smaller nations to get a revenue raising game. For example, If Thailand go to Vientiane it will be a great day financially for Laos. Also, it adds the excitement of possible shock home wins such as teams playing on a plastic pitch in Phnom Penh or in a full stadium away at Myanmar.

With that format change in mind, which do you think is the most difficult away trip and why?

Any trip to the Bung Karno in Jakarta when the stadium is full is a daunting experience. We (Thailand) stayed in a hotel about 1 km from the stadium but it took over an hour to get there! The fans are passionate and can be hostile. If you have only played in the Singapore League or in Laos it will be a scary experience. Also going to Cambodia means playing on a plastic pitch, again with a huge crowd who are football crazy.

Which teams would you like to see matched up in the group stage?

With Vietnam and Thailand being separated then whoever gets Indonesia will become the group of death. If Philippines get drawn with Malaysia that could cause an upset. Philippines have great foreign talent, its if they are available is the question and Malaysia seem to be in a disorganized period. So, the second spot in the group that does not have Indonesia in could be a great match up.

On a personal level its sad to see Laos cast as minnows as match fixing suspensions have decimated a very small pool of talent. There is great character and talent in Laos but this corruption cancer is killing the chances of football development