Shillong Lajong FC are a club that were written off for relegation right at the start of the season by critics. But the club, under the astute tutelage of Desmond Bulpin, sit at 9th spot in the I-League trailing Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan by only a point.
"Its the first derby for this region. It will be a tough game. United Sikkim are a tough team to beat at home. So it will be a good game," Bulpin told Goal.com.
When asked about his time at Lajong, Bulpin felt that the facilities there were one of the best in India. "The stadium is wonderful. The atmosphere is brilliant. The hospitality in India has been fantastic. I've had a good time here at the club," said Bulpin.
What has been a hallmark of the Scotsman's tenure is his ability to get the best out of limited resources. "The board and players have worked really hard. Our performances on the pitch are a testament to that. We have the stability and the desire to win. Yes, we are a bit short financially, but you don't need to have superstars in your team to do well. Mohun Bagan are an example of that. They made some big money signings, but have constantly switched their manager," said the former Phillipines coach.
"The boys need to start believing in themselves. We have a young side. So there is a lack of mental strength," added the Lajong gaffer.
|Bulpin attributes the club's success down to the players and the Board|
The North-Eastern side have been very strong at home losing only twice to Churchill Brothers and Sporting Clube de Goa. Their away form hasn't been the same as they slumped to 4-1 defeats to Dempo SC and Mumbai FC. Bulpin however had a different opinion of the same. "I thought we were brilliant against Dempo. We played well throughout the game. They scored their goals when we gambled a bit to go for the win. The Mumbai game was an exception," opined Bulpin.
The North-Eastern duo of Shillong Lajong FC and United Sikkim FC provide an opportunity for the youngsters of the region to showcase their talent and possibly think of taking up football as a career. The Scotsman revealed that the club had big plans for the development of youth in the region.
"Right now we are on the lookout for a Director for our Academy. We are bringing a person called John Gobbold from England who's right now in Dubai to start some soccer schools in Shillong. We plan to go to the villages and identify some talented 14-year olds for the Academy. We believe in bringing players up through the youth system to the first team. Jacob (Lalrawngbawla) is one such home-grown player on the first-team who's is a brilliant talent" Bulpin explained.
The Scotsman has been instrumental in launching the careers of prominent Premier League footballers like Peter Crouch and Ledley King. So which footballer in India now does he think will become a household name? "Holicharan Narzary. I feel he's the best striker in India now. I gave him a chance when he was 16-years old when I was at Indian Arrows (now Pailan Arrows). He's a fantastic talent," signed off the 61-year old.
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