BFC decide to part ways with Westwood

Football : Briton leaves behind a rich legacy

BFC decide to part ways with  Westwood

If there is a date that the Bengaluru FC faithful would dread to remember, then that would be May 31. It was on this very day that a certain Bello Razaq nodded in a corner three minutes from time breaking hundreds of Bengalurians hearts as Mohun Bagan snatched the I-League trophy from their grasp last year.

And exactly 365 days later, the Bengaluru supporters were once again left shocked as the club decided to part ways with the one man who gave the club its identity -- Ashley Westwood.

“Bengaluru FC, on Tuesday, announced that the club would be parting ways with coach Ashley Westwood by mutual consent, bringing to (an) end a successful three-year association during which the Blues won two I-League titles and one Federation Cup crown,” the club said in a statement ending months of speculations.

Travelling back in time, the club was non-existent when Westwood first dropped by the Bangalore Football stadium -- their training facility and the first home ground -- in July, 2013.

Of course, the Manchester United tag — he is their academy graduate — helped him in gathering eyeballs, but the Englishman certainly created his own path to success rather than using a label from the past.

While his professionalism and approach is much talked about across the country, it’s his involvement with the club that made him stand out from the other foreign coaches that have had a run in the Indian circuit.

Starting from the scratch, it was Westwood who persisted on having a team gym, sorted out full-time chefs, a kitchen, stretching rooms, introduced the concept of morning training sessions and also designed the dressing rooms on the lines what one would find in England. Taking it a step forward, his club was also the first to have sports science, analytical study, nutrition, recovery and conditioning work introduced into their training routine: things that you’d expect at a top-tier English club.

The methods soon yielded terrific results for the city-side as Bengaluru caught everyone by surprise and gave a city starved of footballing glory, reasons to celebrate once again.

Their debut season in the I-League was off to a flying start as Bengaluru enjoyed a commendable seven-game unbeaten run at home and later held nerve to clinch the title. It was the first time that a club, in their debut season in a top-tier football league, had clinched the title.

Though detractors dimissed this initial success as a ‘one off instance’, those closely associated with the club knew the driving force behind this success was nothing but Westwood’s hard work, determination and a carefree attitude that he passed on to his players.

These features that he had imbibed into the squad were very much visible in their second season when Bengaluru clinched the Federation Cup to kick-off their season and later made it to the last-16 in their first foray in the AFC Cup.

They might have missed out on defending their I-league title in the 2014-15 season, but Westwood was not the one to rue the missed opportunity as he ensured that the league was back to where it belonged the following season (2015-16), his boys winning the trophy with a game to spare.

The unprecedented success would have forced a few to think that Westwood had a best team in the business at his disposal. But a closer look at his squad would convince you that it was the hard work and thought process that Westwood his then deputy Pradhyum Reddy put into moulding a bunch discards that brought glory to the club.

His foreign quartet included defenders from the English league John Johnson, who came through at Middlesbrough, and Curtis Osano, who came through at Reading. Accompanying them were Liberian midfielder Johnny Menyongar, a player who switched clubs too often and Australia’s Sean Rooney.

“When we were formed, most players had clubs, and we had a low budget. Sunil Chhetri was the only regular I-League player we had. So our signings were all more or less second division players,” said Westwood in an interview about his Indian recruits.

It was these very guys who made Westwood’s dream a reality with their shrewd and entertaining football. And now with the Englishman parting his ways with the club, it has certainly put an end an era.

Westwoodfactfile

Name: Ashley Westwood
Age: 39
Nationality: British
Stint with Bengaluru FC
2013-14: I-League: Won the title in debut season
Federation Cup: Failed to qualify for semifinals
2014-15: I-League: Finished runners-up to Mohun Bagan
Federation Cup: Won the title beating Dempo SC in the final
AFC Cup: Reached the last-16
2015-16: I-League: Won the title with a game to spare
Federation Cup: Lost to Aizawl FC in the first round
AFC Cup: Has reached the quarterfinals

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