The preliminary round of I-League 2nd division kick-started earlier this month. Ozone FC, the 2nd division outfit from Bengaluru, appointed David Booth as the head coach in November 2017. Discussing the interest from the club, the 69-year-old admitted that the offer was too tempting. ‘’I received an invitation to join Ozone FC Bengaluru while working in the Solomon Islands and coming back to India was too hard to resist,’’ Booth told Goal in an exclusive chat.
The England-born manager was earlier in-charge of Mumbai FC during the years 2007-09, where he promoted the Yellow Submarines from the second division to top-flight football. However, Booth believes that things have evolved ever since and he would need to adapt with the modern day football. ‘’I was with Mumbai FC winning the 2nd Division I-League but it was sometime ago and it has changed. I expect things to be much harder this time so I feel I need to pick up quickly,’’ he explained.
Stepping into Ozone FC, Booth had his first taste of glory in Bangalore Super Division with a title victory. The gaffer admits that the championship has boosted the morale of the youngsters in his group. ‘’Winning the Bangalore Super League was good for the players. We are quite a young squad so confidence was built up during that period and hopefully it will continue during the Second Division league,’’ he commented.
Managing the team in the first year of appointment is often challenging but the with the support of the management, the process has been smooth admits the former Myanmar coach. ‘’Building any team is difficult but with good staff around, we feel that we are on the correct path and have brought in a number of players we feel can fulfill our target,’’ he expressed. ‘’I am hoping that this year our team is capable of making the cut to progress to the I League. We have to forget last year and focus on now,’’ adds Booth when asked if Ozone can qualify for the final round this season, unlike the previous.
Ozone started their preparations for the preliminary rounds well before other outfits in the tournament. When asked if this gives them an edge over their opponents, Booth denied so. ‘’It does not necessarily give us an edge as we do not know the capabilities of other teams. Only we feel we know our own and at the moment are comfortable with that,’’ revealed the ex-Grimsby Town defender.
The 2018 edition of Santosh Trophy is slated to begin on March 19 with Karnataka being placed in Group B. Karnataka will play its first fixture against Goa on March 22. On being questioned about the fixtures of Santosh Trophy clashing with I-League 2nd division, Booth answered, ‘’Hopefully the Santosh Trophy will not affect us as the Karnataka State Football Association have actually helped and understood our predicament. They have only taken needy players, allowing us to prepare for our competition so we are grateful for their support and hope we can make them proud.''
Among the 18 teams contesting the second division this year, seven are from the Indian Super League. Reserve sides of Delhi Dynamos and FC Pune City are placed in Group A, FC Goa and Kerala Blasters in Group B and JSW Bengaluru, Jamshedpur and Chennaiyin in Group C of the preliminary rounds. Booth believes that their presence in the tournament will pose a threat to his side but they must be willing to accept the challenge.
‘’I think it will make winning games more difficult as they are from bigger clubs and obviously are well coached but we must concentrate on our own team and performances. We have to be well prepared as we expect all the teams to be of a high level,’’ he concluded.