Days after signing a two-year contract extension with Mumbai City FC, head coach Des Buckingham was greeted by fans at a home fixture last weekend with a banner that read: “Lead us Des”.
Going into Saturday’s away game against ATK Mohun Bagan, the Englishman is doing just that. He has led Mumbai City FC to an unbeaten run in the Indian Super League (ISL) this season with an eight-match winning streak, a competition record. Top of the table after 13 games, Mumbai City are being chased by defending champions Hyderabad FC but, as their 40 goals so far reflect, a beat-me-if-you-can. are
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Buckingham, who moved to the set-up 15 months ago from another City Football Group (CFG) club (the A-League’s Melbourne City), spoke about why the label influenced his decision to stay and the run. Factors behind the AFC Champions League where they became the first Indian team to win in the current format.
Excerpts from the interview:
What made you stay in Mumbai city?
There were other options. But when I look at my time in the group, firstly two and a half years in Melbourne, the trust that has been put in me and the growth as a person and as a coach, I feel the same here. This is my 21st season of coaching but I am only 37 years old. I have a lot of career years to hopefully be able to do this in the biggest football group in the world, I think it’s the right decision. What I want to do to stay is in line with what CFG wants to do here.
And what is that?
I was brought in for two main reasons: one, to develop young players—be it players, youth or veterans—and two, to set up the club just like other CFG clubs. look like After our time in Melbourne where we won the double, we have brought a lot of infrastructure to the club which is now up and running. These are things around the gym program, fitness, rest, recovery etc. to give our players and staff the best. And then, to bring a certain style of football and see if we can implement it with the players here. I am very happy that what we have done in the last 15 months is allowing the players to show themselves in a much better way.
Going forward, it’s about making sure we’re as good as we can be, and building on that. I want to be the best coach I can be. We want the best Indian players here. We want to play a certain style of football, which I think has been on full show this season. And we want to be a club in 2-3 years’ time that doesn’t just challenge for the trophy for one season. It’s not just about one season and then nothing for 3-4 seasons. It’s about putting things in place that allow us long-term success. It excites me.
The team has scored 40 goals and their fans are at home. How important is the style you play in it?
This is the most important thing for me. There are many different ways to win football games. We have a very clear way of how we want to play: an exciting, attacking brand of football. It looks simple but there is a lot of time and work that goes behind the scenes to make it look simple.
Given the run you’re on, does the group feel like something special is brewing?
The feel of the changing room is the focus of professionalism. This is not one of the groups that gets swept away. They are happy but we know we need to do a lot to be successful. If we continue to push and drive each other, which I see every day in training, and hold ourselves to our standards, we will put ourselves in the best position to do the job.
Last season too you had a dominant start before fading. What is the difference between these terms?
I arrived just three weeks before the season. We won the double (last season they finished top of the league stage and won the title), but five players had left. So, there was little to rebuild. We got off to a really good start, but weren’t able to sustain it. This year, it has given us time to plan. We started last January with the type of players we wanted to bring in. We knew we were going into the Champions League and we wanted to do as much as we could with it (two wins in the group stage). We used the Durand Cup (Mumbai City reached the final) to be successful as well as preparing for the ISL. It all boils down to where we are now—13 games into an ISL season of some real consistency.
How valuable has the addition of Greg Stewart been?
As important as any other player we have brought in. The big part has been the ability to keep the covers from last year, because we spent a lot of time trying to set them up to play a certain way. And then we’ve tried to complement that with some quality additions to those last places. When you’re able to bring in someone like Gregg or (Jorge Pereira) Diaz or (Rostin) Griffiths and surround them with the quality of (Ahmed) Jaho and (Mouratada) Fall, it gives us different ways to work. Is.
In the midst of this incredible run, does the thought of loss ever cross your mind?
People don’t believe it, but I don’t get caught on runs. We have a clear way of doing things, and that won’t change whether we win, lose or draw. This is important because it influences behavior, and then you don’t see the highs and lows and change what you do based on the results.
(Tags Translation)Des Buckingham