Having guided the Bengaluru FC to win the I-league twice during his stint with the club from 2013 to 2016, 45-year-old coach Ashley Westwood was a highly successful coach in the league. The former English footballer now returns to Indian football once again as the head coach of RoundGlass Punjab FC. With the team competing in its second season, Westwood now looks forward to this edition of the Indian league beginning later this month in Kolkata.
“I knew it will always take something special to bring me back to India. I left after having three brilliant years with Bengaluru FC and there was a possibility that I may never return. I had thoughts of joining an ambitious club and that is what would have taken to bring me back. RoundGlass Punjab FC provides something special. The biggest challenge in this stint is to manage expectations and my reputation from my time with Bengaluru FC. We won the I-league twice and missed a third title win by just one point. As a coach, one gets better with age and the biggest challenge will be to find a formula that gets us the right results,” said Westwood.
Last season, RoundGlass Punjab FC had appointed Curtis Fleming as their head coach and the team finished fourth with 22 points. With this season bringing a ton of promise with players like Chencho Gyltshen, Baba Diawara, Josef Yarney, Kurtis Guthrie, John Johnson and Travis Major, the team shows winning potential. While Yarney started his career as an Everton FC’s youth player, he also played for Newcastle United’s youth team before playing for English clubs Morecambe and Chesterfield. 32-year-old Johnson is a graduate of Middlesbrough FC Academy and has played for Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan while Guthrie has played in EFL for Accrington Stanley, Forrest Green Rovers, Colchester United, Stevenage, and Port Vale. This season, RoundGlass Punjab FC has defenders Rino Anto, Gurtej Singh. “If I had 25 brand new players, ten weeks would not have been long enough to train them. I needed to get some players who knew me and are potential examples for younger players. I am impressed with Indian players especially the youngsters. They have the knowledge and fitness to excel,” added Westwood.
The team began its pre-season in Kolkata earlier this year and with this year’s I-league being played in a bio bubble as well, Westwood sees it as both a challenge and a positive. “As the head coach, my thought is to adapt to the new world. It is challenging but then it’s for all the teams. The bio-bubble helps in ensuring there are no distractions and my aim is to keep the players positive. We are not here just for numbers but to try and win the title ,” he said.
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