Players who have worked under him revere him. People who have played with him admire him for his astute game sense and passion. Yet, it is coaching that gives 53-year-old Rickie Herbert utmost satisfaction. Currently in India as the coach of Northeast FC, Herbert had led New Zealand in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where it failed to progress beyond the group stage.
However, the young side earned praise for remaining unbeaten as it drew with Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia.
The South Africa tournament, however, wasn’t Herbert’s first tryst with the World Cup. As a player, he had represented the white ferns in the 1982 edition.
Despite coaching at the highest level, the Kiwi’s motivation to train an unfancied side still seems strong. No wonder he has thrown his hat in the ring to coach the Indian football team after the post went vacant following the resignation of fellow Dutchman Kim Koevermans last month.
“All I can say is that there is a potential position (of a coach) available in India and the profile has a lot of similarities to what I did with the New Zealand team when I took them to the World Cup four years ago. Its too early for me to comment on it, but all I can say it that getting to be a coach of the Indian team would be an interesting job,” Herbert said.
He played down talks of ISL diluting the home-grown I-League. The ISL, he feels, will provide pathways for upcoming players to showcase their talent, while the I-League will prosper with the advent of the ISL and the two leagues can co-exist and feed off each other.
“You can produce good players, but they need good places to play…the ISL provides the platform for these youngsters. Now, India has got a national team, which is fantastic…you have the youth teams, followed by the I-League and the ISL. So overall, its an exciting time for football to prosper in India,” he said.
The Auckland native stressed the importance of developing the game at the grassroots level and promoting young talent to help develop and promote the game at the national level. “A country like India has tremendous potential and it is important to invest in young talent. It is also important to find the right synergy for developing these players in a collective manner.”
Focus on youth
His comments find resonance in the manner in which he has been promoting NorthEast goalkeeper Rehenesh, who has been a standout performer for the NorthEast franchise this season.
“Our goalkeeper T.P. Rehenesh is playing alongside Joan Capdevila and Miguel Garcia. That is cool. As a player he will gain in experience and will keep evolving…but he has potential and as a coach, my job is to persist with him and give him confidence and not remove him if he makes a mistake. The quality of the ISL will be determined by these young Indian players.”
Ahead of the NorthEast’s encounter with Pune, Herbert believes the process is more important than the result. “I am not worried about the results…they will come provided the process is correct. I will keep investing in youngsters and they are currently doing a great job. We are third in the league so its great,” he added.