Ashley Westwood, the coach of Federation Cup champions Bengaluru FC, was ecstatic as his Blues secured the 36th edition of the Cup for the very first time in the nascent club's history.
Speaking after the game, the British coach refused to shoulder the credit for the success of the team in their second year of existence and instead allowed the spotlight on his boys, who he says, had worked extremely hard and in a professional manner to help get the team to where they are today.
Sunil Chhetri opened the scoring for the Bengaluru-based team from the spot, before they were pegged back by a Tolgay Ozbey penalty. Robin Singh then added the decisive goal in the 65th minute to all but ensure the I-League champions sturdy defense held on for a superb victory.
“We’ve won a trophy and we’re over the moon. It was always our aim because we wanted to show everyone that last season wasn’t a fluke. We wanted everyone to see why we are champions and we wanted to come in and put on a good show. I’m completely pleased with the boys, not just today but throughout the tournament. Right back to when we started on July 17th, they’ve been magnificent professionals and the hard-work has paid off in this tournament,” revealed a relieved and extremely pleased Westwood, after Dempo’s Golden Eagles gave his team a good run for their money.
Questioned on the strength of the Bengaluru squad, Westwood opined, “There are loads of things that I can mention as our key elements. The organisation, the boys looking after themselves off the pitch, making sure they’re coming in for training every day and giving it maximum effort. They listen and apply themselves and take everything on board in terms of what we’re giving them. The collective effort of everyone associated with the club, we’ve got some magnificent people here and with everyone pulling in the same direction I hope we go from strength to strength.”
Asked if his defensive backline was a example of inspiration for his excellent team, Westwood surmised, “The backline have performed really well, but what they’re paid to do. They’re not doing anything out of the ordinary, if they’re not doing what they are doing, we’ll look to drop them and bring in a change. Although they’re doing well and they deserve better praise, that’s what they do and that’s what they should do.
“If they didn’t do that, we’d look to strengthen in those areas and that’s the beauty of our club. We give them the framework, we give them the preparation and we tell them what’s required and if it’s not up to the standard then we try to replace and strengthen. At the moment everything is going well, but we have to keep striving. We can’t sit back and think we’re top of the world because we’re not. We’ve got loads of football to play this season.”
Exclaiming that adaptability was a strong feature in his club’s displays, Westwood pointed out how his side dealt with the loss of Joshua Walker, their key midfielder, early in the game. He also claimed he knew the formula to beat Dempo after seeing them off twice in last year’s I-League.
“If you look over our games against Dempo, we’ve beaten them twice. We scored early in both those games so we were hopeful of getting an early goal. We wanted to take the game to them, we wanted to go and attack it. We lost Joshua (Walker) after 20-25 minutes and we had to reshuffle which shows our strength and depth. We had to change our tactics a bit and we showed that we can be adaptable and that we can change under circumstances which is key to any successful football club.”
Finally, on the topic of Englishman Walker himself, the coach took the opportunity to cauterize and blast the organisers of the tournament by claiming the player's injury was a result of players being asked to play a lot of matches in a short period of time, whilst also claiming no tournament in the world would put pressure on players to play two games in 45 hours.
“Joshua’s got a hamstring strain, nothing serious. We’ll have a bit of time in the morning to assess it and get him back to full fitness as soon as possible. It’s just one of those injuries that comes from accumulative stress. Six games in fourteen days and two games in 45 hours for us is a ridiculous schedule, you wouldn’t see that in any tournament of any stature anywhere else in the world.
"You can see that when Joshua pulls his hamstring and then Tolgay pulls his hamstring. These organisers are putting players at risk with this packed schedule and it shouldn’t happen.”