'We are not here for instant glory'

BFC coach aims for long-term growth

'We are not here for instant glory'

Bengaluru FC have hit the high road in their very first season in India’s top flight football division, the I-League, and one man who has been credited with most of the acclaim is club coach, Ashley Westwood. 

Coming into the club with the Manchester United brand name (Westwood was an academy graduate at United) raised eyebrows and expectations in equal measure and the 37-year-old has managed to set-up a promising platform for BFC. 

Speaking to reporters after a training session at the Bangalore Football Stadium on Tuesday, Westwood suggested that his work at the club was just getting started.  

“There are five teams that could possibly win the league but we (BFC) are not after instant success,” said Westwood. 

“My only remit when I got the job was improving the boys on a daily basis. We are a new side with a three to five year plan. The only thing that was mentioned to me was ‘we have got an exemption from relegation but if you can, please stay out of the bottom three if possible.’”

Considering that, it’s remarkable to think that they are the league leaders with 30 points from 15 games, two ahead of Sporting Clube de Goa. And they have an opportunity to stretch the lead to five points when they face Mumbai FC at home on Sunday. 

Asked whether he was surprised by the fact that they are leading the table, Westwood pulled no punches. “No, not really because I’m aware of my ability and my staff’s ability. The only thing surprising is how well the lads have applied themselves,” he pointed out. 

The former midfielder attributed the team’s success to the players’ willingness to work as a squad. “We signed a load of players nobody wanted. Other than Sunil (Chhetri), no one was an I-League regular. So that has given us great team spirit because these guys have something to prove and they are proving it.” 

Westwood also identified the club’s coaching techniques as the key to where they are now. “We have got nowhere near the biggest budget or squad in the league.”

While there is sufficient pressure at BFC to be seen as the new face of Indian club football, Westwood’s short-term ambitions remain fairly grounded. 

“No one’s going to get thrown away from the football club if we don’t win the league. Nobody’s going to get sacked or lose their place. If we finish fifth from top, that will be a fantastic achievement. Anything else (above) is a bonus.”

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