BY RAHUL BALI Follow @rahulatma on twitter
In an exclusive interview with Goal, Ashley Westwood, the former Manchester United academy player, explains his decision to join Bengaluru FC and the targets he has set.
Congratulations on getting the head coach's job at JSW's Bengaluru FC. What motivated you to take up the job?
Just after speaking to the owners, the CEO and people involved with the club and learning and understanding about the project and the vision it sounded appealing and exciting to me. This is a club with genuine ambition making big strides in the market that has lots of scope for development and growth.
You had been assistant manager to top Championship sides before coming to India. Do you think leaving Europe and coming to the I-League is the right step in your career?
Yes. I’ve been assistant manager at three championship clubs. Arguably, a similar role at three different clubs, albeit of different sizes. It’s a chance at young age to further my experience in a different environment, culture and standard. This chance at first team level can only help me develop and grow as a coach. I’ve just added another string to the bow. For me it’s only a positive career move because not everyone can say that they have coached at different countries. It’s a different avenue to explore.
Have you followed Indian football at any level in the past? Did you consult anyone with prior experience of Indian football, before taking up the job?
I’ve never followed Indian football till it was brought to my attention. As soon as I was aware I started watching DVDs and games. I’ve been to Thailand before for a short period and studied a few games there. I’ve also trained and played for a Vietnam side, so I’ve touched Asian culture. I was slightly prepared, if you like, dicing around those two countries before.
Having worked under Venky’s, the Indian owners at Blackburn who are very much criticized by the fans, were you skeptical over working on an Indian project?
No not at all. Whether it’s a European, American or Asian side – every owner is judged on their merit. I have no pre conceptions about any owners till I have spoken and understood their plans.
With the style of play becoming a crucial factor, what is it that you want to implement at the club?
First of all we need to get our fitness right and make sure we get fit to the demands of the weather and traveling. Once we make strides in our fitness then we approach the tactical side and the technical issues. We will try to entwine them with our fitness. It’s not all about running. We can get a mix of the two and prepare ourselves for the coming season. We’d like to implement fitness, tactics, technique, nutrition and most importantly avoid injuries.
With no relegation for three years, does it give you enough breathing space to experiment with the boys at the clubs in one of your first assignments as the head coach in top flight?
Relegation or no relegation in place, it doesn’t affect what we do and our targets and jobs. There’s a certain amount of pride and personal pressure with relegation or not. Standards will be set high – personal and professional. If those are high, the league table will take care of itself.
At the Indian clubs, players often turn up at the training session and thereafter take care of their nutrition by themselves. Will see that change with JSW under your tutelage?
Yes, we will definitely see a change. Everyone at JSW and the sports group have all got a connection with some kind of sport and we seem to be singing off the same page. We are all aware of the nutritional benefits and we are trying to guide the players on a daily basis. As a coach in Indian football, I am trying to change things, take information on board and this can only improve our standards.
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