Forty-eight hours before ATK's eleventh match in the 2017-18 Indian Super League (ISL) season, at home to Chennaiyin FC, the two-time champions decided to give head coach Teddy Sheringham the boot.
Technical Director Ashley Westwood was installed as the 'interim head-coach' and tasked with the job of taking a team languishing at the eighth spot into the top four.
"I got a phone call last night around 8-8.30 PM from the CEO (Raghu Iyer) after a meeting with one of the owners, Mr. Sanjiv Goenka. He relayed that things haven't gone the way they envisaged and they were making a change with the head coach and asked if I could help out in the immediate future. Obviously, I am contracted as the technical director. I have a responsibility to fulfil that role wherever the owners or the CEO want me to fill in or help out, be it grassroots, be it youth team be it first team, whatever you want, be it sweeping the terraces. I am here to help the club and that is what I will do," Westwood told reporters on the eve of the Chennaiyin FC game at the Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday.
He further clarified on his job detail. "Interim is the word exactly what it means, short term, in the immediate future and temporary in-charge. In regards the difficulty, I have been a head coach and also one in India for three years so I don't see any difficulty. I'm confident in what I do I'm confident in our commodity. It's part and parcel of football. Whether that's a head coach, assistant coach, I have got a job to do.
"You can never compare in football. The only thing is that it is in India. So I know what to expect. Regards to comparing it would be unfair. Now I've to just concentrate on this job and helping out the club," he said, refusing to draw any parallels to his time with Bengaluru FC in the I-League between 2013-2016.
"Haven't had a lot of time to instil a massive difference. I hope that we can inject maybe just a little bit of a freshness. A new face maybe can change our fortunes. The team, although they have lost four games haven't been disgraceful or at the bottom of the table. Also, some of the games have been lost on fine margins. I'll ask the players to do the best and see where we go."
"I think regarding motivation, all of them are professional footballers. You play at a fantastic stadium with great fans. So you're here to look into the stands and realize what you play for and you motivate yourself," the former Manchester United academy graduate said.
Westwood revealed that Sheringham's sacking was a decision that was not taken with his knowledge.
"The owners decided and I wasn't consulted in that department and it's got nothing to do with me. I just do what I'm contractually obliged to do. It will be ill-mannered of me to speak about Teddy. I respect him as a footballer, a coach and I can say there's no point to comment on something that's got nothing to do with me."
"Obviously, we had a very good and open relationship, me and Teddy. We spoke about many things. He'd never come to me with the displeasure of the players. Unless somebody tells me that directly, I would dismiss that as a rumour," he replied if rumours of him and the former Spurs striker having a rift regarding the quality of Indian players were indeed true.
"You know we all got a strange situation of picking from the draft. I think, collectively, what we took out of the draft we were happy with. No, it's not Indians or international players' fault. There are many reasons why your form is not as good as you would expect."
"So I don't think there is anybody to blame, the season is not over. Apart from the home and away FC Pune City fixtures (1-4 at home; 3-0 away), we have been tight. We have not conceded much if you take those seven out. We are a capable side and need to get some answers. Sometimes it is about fine margins," he added.
"All I'm trying to do is give a little bit of confidence and hopefully get a verbal response from the players and as we build on. I'll see if we can make one or two changes that make a difference", concluded Westwood.