Melbourne City FC assistant coach Des Buckingham is now in charge of reigning ISL champions Mumbai City FC as Sergio Lobera stepped down to move forward with his career within City Football Group. Buckingham was involved with Oxford United U18, Wellington, Stoke City U23 and New Zealand U20, U23 and senior teams prior to joining A-League side Melbourne City FC.
Des Buckingham on joining Indian Super League side Mumbai City FC:
“I’m hugely excited, and I can’t wait to get into India and to continue the excellent work that Sergio (Lobera) and the team had last year in terms of success and also the playing style.”
Des in an interview with the Islanders, said that he had visited India previously in 2018 as the assistant coach to the senior New Zealand Men’s Team.
“We were invited to a four-team tournament in India, so we actually played at the Mumbai ground, the Mumbai Arena. So I had a great experience playing with the national team there, and we actually experienced in the atmosphere that the Indian fans certainly put on for us during that tournament.”
On being asked about what excited him the most about the opportunity to manage Mumbai, he said, “There’s a few things. Firstly, it was looking at the league’s standard and seeing the progress that has been made, especially in recent years. It’s the playing style that Sergio has brought in in the past 12 months. I’ve kept in touch with Sergio last year during my time in Melbourne and looked at a lot of the games, and the way that the team played is very similar to kind of what we did in Melbourne. And then it was the opportunity to again come back in as a head coach and a head coaching role and try and bring some added value to continue some success on and off the field.”
Despite the above reasons, it was not an easy decision to make for the English football manager as he put it by saying, “I think when you move clubs, or you move countries in particular you find yourself in new countries and cultures and different ways of working; and the success we had in Melbourne last year was a huge, enjoyable thing to be part of but what I do see is some real further potential with Mumbai. It was a decision that for me became easier the more I actually understood and spoke to the club and spoke to the City Football Group.”
Clubs within the City Football group tend to play a similar high-intensity attacking football and have a good amount of possession. On being asked if his style aligned with the principles of the CFG, he said, “I was brought into the group off the back of my work with the New Zealand Football national teams—under 20s and 23s, and the styles were very similar. I want to play a possession-based game, want to play an attacking based game. I want to be excited myself watching the team play, and to do that, you need to have a structure in place, and the 12 months I spent in Melbourne has certainly given me further insight into how the City football style works and operates.”
The final quality of the product that people view on the television and on the pitch and the sustained playing style and success that he had during his time with Melbourne are some of the takeaways that Des looks to bring into Mumbai.
Buckingham’s managerial experience so far has primarily been concerned with young players, and Mumbai City, who currently boast quite a few young talents under their roof, is set to make a mark in their upcoming ISL campaign that is less than two months away.
“I think the further we go into modern football the more importance and focus we see on young players and a young player maybe ten years ago would have been 24/25 (years old) they’re now seen as experienced professionals (…) so to come into Melbourne and to come into the City Football Group that also share that value and philosophy around promoting young players is an exciting one.”
“When I look at the Mumbai squad, in particular, the average age of the squad falls around that 22, 23-year age group. So in terms of the experiences that I’m able to hopefully bring in and add and share with those players, in particular, I’d like to think that as something I could bring into that role to help them develop a little bit further as well”, added the gaffer.
For a team to be successful in the Indian Super League, Des believes that good people are required and that the club’s recruitment has been excellent. For him, it’s about “how you want to do and what you want to do, and if you’ve got an obvious direction and what that looks like and players and staff alike are aware of that, then we’re working towards our shared direction.” The two key ingredients are “good people, hopefully, provides good players and then an obvious way where everyone can understand how they fit within that system to try and point towards a shared direction.”
Speaking of his targets for his first season in charge of Mumbai, Buckingham said, “The team were very successful last year, retaining and winning the double. And our work now will focus on trying to retain that double and working towards silverware but also trying to continue to sustain the playing style and hopefully evolve it in the coming season.”
“For me, it would be about trying to work with the players and staff initially, to work out what they want to continue doing and then look at where I can add other value to allow us to sustain and then build because we want to evolve.”
The interview concluded with a message to all the Mumbai fans:
“I’m really excited to get over to India. I’m really excited to get together with the playing group and continue working and building on the success that this club certainly brought last year. Hopefully, once we come out of this bubble, we can bring football back to Mumbai Arena and allow fans to come in and really see this up close and get back behind the team in person. Whereas in the meantime, we’ll continue to build on the success, and I’m really looking forward to another successful season.”
IFTWC would like to wish Des Buckingham all the best in his role as Mumbai City FC manager. Despite the blow of former coach Sergio Lobera with whom the team became the first side to win both the ISL League Winners Shield and the ISL Trophy in a single season, stepping down, it is indeed going to be an exciting new season for the Islanders. They look to defend the title and build on their success.
Follow our website for more updates on Indian football.