Former Norwich City winger and new East Bengal recruit Anthony Pilkington will be playing outside England for the first time in his career and he is very excited to begin a new journey in India.
“It is a great opportunity,” said Pilkington during a chat with Goal. "I have never played outside of England. All my football has been there. It is an opportunity and experience that I am looking forward to.”
Pilkington has been training with his new team in Goa for a week now and has already loved the warmth shown by East Bengal fans on social media.
The Red and Golds begin their Indian Super League (ISL) sojourn on November 27 with the blockbuster Kolkata Derby and the former Republic of Ireland international has already understood the importance of facing ATK Mohun Bagan.
“I am really looking forward to playing for the club. I got a really warm welcome from the fans. They have been brilliant on social media. I have been speaking to the Indian players of our squad and they told me how big the club is not just in India but around the world with millions of fans.
“After the fixtures came out, we have been told about the derby and how big the derby is. So I really cannot wait to get the season going and it is going to be really exciting I am sure,” said the winger.
The former Canaries midfielder revealed that he had a fair idea of the league before the Red and Golds had approached him, though some of his friends and former teammates who have come to India this season.
“I had heard about the ISL before. I did know that few of my friends did sign for some other ISL teams just before I was contacted by East Bengal. I did know about the league.”
The 32-year-old footballer is eager to work with new East Bengal manager Robbie Fowler and suggested that the Liverpool legend played a huge role in convincing him to join the Kolkata side.
“Robbie Fowler is a massive star in England and across the world so having a chance to work with such a quality player that he was and learn from him is great because you never stop learning in football. He is a huge factor in me signing for East Bengal. I am really looking forward to working with him and learn a few new things under the gaffer and his staff,” said the Irish footballer.
The entire East Bengal squad started training together just three days ago and they play their first in three weeks’ time. But Pilkington is not worried about a short pre-season and suggested that every ISL team will have the same issue.
“For the pre-season, everyone is on the same boat. We see some of the teams where players are still arriving in the country and still under quarantine. All our players have ended their quarantine and have joined the training. There cannot be any excuses. We are really excited. We have had some good training sessions already and the lads are really getting to know each other, know the way each of them plays.
“We are getting used to the manager and his staff and there is a really good vibe around the team. We can’t wait to get the season started. We would have liked to start straight away but we have to wait till November 27.”
The Irish footballer has come to India with just one target that is to win as many games as possible and as he believes that without the hunger for success, football is pointless.
“I have come here to win football matches," said Pilkington. “There is no point playing football if you don’t want to win. I am a firm believer in that right from kids’ football all the way to senior football. You got to want to win. You got to enjoy your game as well. If you don’t enjoy your game, you might probably do something else.”