Des Buckingham – The football we played was some of the best football that has been seen in the ISL.

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The youngest manager in the Indian Super League, Mumbai City FC’s Des Buckingham, spoke to the media recently talking about his coaching philosophy, Mumbai City’s activities in the transfer market, expectations from the upcoming season, and much more. Here are some excerpts from the interaction.

Des

Des Buckingham was brought in to coach Mumbai City back in 2021. He spoke about the reasons which made him fit for the role in the eyes of the CFG.

“I was brought in by CFG to this club from Melbourne for two reasons. One was to build the playing style, build that identity. The second was to try and make this club a CFG club behind the scenes as well. So, everything that our players experience and everything that our players have on and off the field is the same or very similar to what they get at other clubs in the CFG network.”

Des also spoke about the big moves the other ISL clubs have been making in the transfer window making the upcoming ISL season more competitive than ever.

“We don’t want to be the same as last season. Last season was very successful for us for many reasons and we were able to do what we did. But we can’t do the same again. We need to recognize what worked well, and we don’t want to throw it all out and change everything. We want to build on the success we had, and we want to be as successful as we can.”

Des maintained that the squad would retain about 70-80% of what has worked so well for them in the bygone season but at the same time, stressed the need to adapt and evolve. Des stated that there has not been much turnover in the starting 11 and the Islanders have made sure to secure the players that they have, especially the young ones, to long-term contracts.

Des

Talking about the increased competitiveness of the AFC Champions League with the increased spending and high-profile signings made by the Saudi clubs, Des remarked on how much he was looking forward to the challenge. He also said that he was expecting a few more high-profile signings by the Saudi clubs and that only time would tell if Mumbai City would end up drawing one of them.

“We know this may be the last time an Indian club gets to go to the AFC Champions League for a period of time. We want to build on what Goa did the first year, and what we did last year, to try and showcase Indian football firstly, and secondly, what our players are capable of doing. Because as you just heard, we want to be a club that provides a platform for the players to move outside of India as well.”

Des Buckingham also reminisced on Mumbai City’s impressive campaign the last time they played in the AFC Champions League, remarking that they went and played against three teams that were both financially and footballing-wise stronger than the Islanders and how despite that, they managed to come away with three results out of six, with two wins and a draw. “We’ll wait for the draw, but what I will say is the club and the players, we’re all very excited about going and representing our club, the area, and the country again.”

Des Buckingham reflected on the need for long national team camps amidst a midseason break for the Asian Cup saying that they will comply with whatever they are told by AIFF. Talking about the Asian Cup, Des remarked that we know how important that competition is for Indian football. “And we will continue to do as I have done since we’ve been here for two years. We continue to try and support the national team as well as we can because it’s good for Indian football, it’s good for our players who want to go and represent their country.”

Des talked about the importance of retaining the core of the team that performed so well in the previous season. “In our squad, we’ve re-signed Phurba (Lachenpa), we’ve re-signed Mehtab (Singh), we’ve re-signed Vikram (Singh), Ayush (Chhikara), Vinit (Rai), Rahul (Bheke). Now if I’m at another club and I was fortunate enough to be able to sign one of those players, they’d be big signings. So, although on paper we’ve obviously signed Yoell (van Nieff), we’ve brought in Tiri and Akash (Mishra), so it’s only three really incomings, but those re-signings for us are as important, if not more important because they’ve shown what they can do for us.” Des noted that for him they had made 7 big signings in the retained list of players and added 3 more in terms of reinforcements to the squad.

Des Buckingham
Image Credits – PTI

Des was asked about the importance of Mourtada Fall and Ahmed Jahouh, both of who have departed to Odisha FC ahead of the upcoming season, to the core of Mumbai City that was being talked about. “Yeah, I think the first thing to recognize is both the contribution of Fall and Jahouh to our football club and I’d go as far as to say Indian football in the ISL because I’d still class Jahouh and Fall as two of the best players in their positions in the league.

What they’ve done for our club in terms of the success they’ve brought to us is fantastic, but for me personally, both of those two players, from the moment I landed at this football club in India, they couldn’t have done any more to help me settle and understand football in this country.”

Finally, talking about the expectations from Mumbai City for the upcoming season, Des spoke about not only the domestic league but also the major competitions coming up on the continental stage. Des spoke about how his focus is always on improving the team’s playing style and giving the players a platform to enable them to perform at the highest level.

“Everybody wants the shield and everybody will say the same thing. I won’t. We spoke all last year and never once did we mention winning a trophy. For me winning a trophy is the cherry on top of what we ended up seeing which was the playing style, which was players being able to showcase what they can do, us providing the platform to those players to be the best they can be, and then hoping that if we can hold ourselves to the performance measures we do internally.”


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