With less than a month and a half until the new season of ISL begins, Mumbai City has been dealt a major blow as coach Sergio Lobera stepped down to join another City Football club. Having been sacked by FC Goa, Lobera joined Mumbai last season and had an immediate impact on the club, winning the League Shield and ISL Trophy in his very first season. It was expected that Lobera would lead Mumbai in their upcoming AFC Champions League campaign, but the dream will not be realized as he plans to move forward in his career.
Des Buckingham, assistant coach of Melbourne City FC, is now set to take over as Mumbai’s new manager. In this article, we take a close look at Buckingham’s career so far.
Initially, Des Buckingham played for English second division sides Reading and Oxford United but failed to make the grade as a player. Thus, he decided to pursue a coaching career after obtaining the required licenses. Buckingham joined Oxford as a youth team manager, working under Chris Wilder, and progressed through the ranks for over a decade to become the head of coaching and then eventually the first team manager. The 36-year-old supported the integration of a large number of youth players into the first team while he was working with the juvenile departments.
Des himself explained the effect of his stint with Oxford on his coaching career, “Working across the age groups during my time with Oxford gave me the chance to be continually challenged in a hugely supportive environment. This helped me to gain great experiences and develop my own coaching beliefs and values which would become important in the latter roles.“
After leaving Oxford to work in sports management, he was hired luckily by Wellington Phoenix in early 2015 as a part-time goalkeeping coach. Eventually, Des was offered a full-time job, which led to him becoming an assistant coach at the club. Phoenix was buried at the bottom of the table in the 2016-17 season followed by the resignation of its manager, Ernie Merrick. Buckingham, alongside Chris Greenacre, was appointed as the interim head coach. Both men assisted Wellington to finish above the relegation zone and they continued to oversee the team throughout the rest of that season.
Des returned to England the following season with an opportunity to work with people like Mark Hughes and Paul Lambert at Stoke City‘s U23 team on the table. He steered the club to an eighth-place finish in Premier League 2’s second division. Buckingham helped youngsters like Tyrese Campbell and current Burnley prospect Nathan Collins to break through into the club’s senior team during his tenure as well.
In the year following, he returned to Oceania, and this time took over as the new manager of the New Zealand U20 team. He led the team to the round of 16 of the FIFA U20 World Cup in 2019 before they were knocked out by Colombia on penalties. Impressed with his work, Des was entrusted to lead the U23 team at the Tokyo Olympics. As a part of preparations for the big stage, the Kiwis participated in the Pacific games and were led to a gold medal finish by the Englishman.
His team was undefeated during his tenure and had no problem getting into the Olympics, as one of the 16 teams at the grand tournament. Sadly, Des’ stint with New Zealand came to an end on a very disappointing note. With the Olympics postponed to 2021, the former-Oxford manager’s contract was not extended as a result of which he failed to see the team that he built for the Olympics.
Buckingham’s New Zealand team, as he described it, was, ” A team with a playing style that was different from others. We were outpassing teams, outshooting them, and reduced opportunities on our goal by a third. Some of the football we played was a pleasure to watch.” He was honored with the Men’s Coach of the Year award by the NZ Football Board as a recognition of his outstanding work with the national youth teams. Kiwi legend Wynton Rufer described the team under Buckingham as “the most excited I felt about a New Zealand football team.”
After being denied an Olympics with his team, the former Phoenix manager joined City Football Group’s Melbourne City FC as their new assistant coach, working under Patrick Kisnorbo. Buckingham was described by CFG as one of the “more forward-thinking coaches in the game“, something Mumbai fans will appreciate. Kisnorbo, as a manager, injured himself twice during his managerial stint with City as a result of which Des was often seen on the sidelines taking over as the head coach. In addition to playing a crucial role in Melbourne City’s title win, Buckingham also played a key role in Jamie MacLaren’s resurgence last season.
As we saw a young manager in Gerard Nus taste success with Northeast United before his abrupt dismissal, it looks like we are about to be treated to another young manager taking over the helm of an ISL team. Under Lobera, Mumbai City played attacking football in abundance last season, and they can expect the same this season with another attacking manager in charge.
According to A-League pundits and CFG, Buckingham is an attacking coach who likes to play the game in a modern way. He generally set up his team in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but sometimes would use a 4-3-3 formation while with the New Zealand youth team. It was a frequent sight to see his team dominate possession in games. Another key reason behind Mumbai choosing him has to be his experience with young players since the current squad of MCFC boasts a bunch of talented youngsters who are hoping for a breakthrough season. The likes of Vikrampratap Singh, Naocha Singh, Valpuia, Nawaz, and their record signing Lalengmawia Apuia, all will be eagerly looking forward to develop under Des who has more than 18 years of valuable insight working with young players.
Mumbai’s team structure had already taken a hit with the departures of their captain Amrinder Singh and best midfielder Hugo Boumous. Lobera’s departure adds another jolt to the team with less than 50 days left for the new season to start. As the noise around the team grows louder, Buckingham faces an uphill battle to convince those who doubt them. Mumbai will face FC Goa in their first match of ISL-8 at the Fatorda Stadium on 22nd November.
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