It's an absolute pleasure coaching Indian players: Stuart Watkiss
Wolverhampton-born Stuart Watkiss took over as the Head Coach of newly-launched I-League outfit Kalyani Bharat FC in November 2014. Following stints with English clubs Mansfield FC, Grimsby Town, and Barnsley FC, among others, Stuart's coming over to India is touted as another step towards the further development of Indian football.
The 48-year-old will lead his men ahead of their first game in the I-League on January 24, and Stuart, himself a former Walsall FC defender, is relishing the prospect of participating in the country’s premier league.
Going ahead into the first game of the I-League, describe your thoughts...
I am very excited. Obviously the start of a new season is very exciting and thrilling. I am more very enthusiastic about being in India, playing this new league, playing against new teams and different coaches. Also, there is a little bit of trepidation because I am not quite sure about the standard of the other teams yet and how my own team stacks up against them.
What do you make out of the shape of your team?
We have only had limited time together. The Indian Super League players have had even less time to get into the Bharat FC groove. Players have come in late depending on progress of their respective ISL sides. We have had to spend more time on fitness than what we would have liked. But in the last few days we have worked very hard on the tactical aspects of the game. I honestly cannot comment as to where we are with respect to other teams, but my I have liked what I have seen so far of this bunch under me.
How have the Indian players adapted to your coaching style?
The Indian players are a wonderful lot. It has been an absolute pleasure coaching them. All of them are hardworking, willing to learn and wanting to grow as footballers.
One of the things that has really taken me pleasantly by surprise is the willingness of these boys to absorb everything that the staff is telling them, be it nutrition, strength training, cardiovascular improvement, taking care of their own bodies. So far I think everyone including me are really enjoying ourselves and each others company.
What tactics will you be employing in the upcoming game against Dempo SC?
It is a great first game for Bharat FC. It is our first ever game and everyone is really pumped for it. It is a difficult game but having said that, my players are going to go on to that pitch full of confidence and belief in our ability.
I cannot divulge the exact tactics, but over the season it will be my aim to play attractive but effective football. We will never be losing sight of the fact that we are in this league to win football matches and we will always aim to play purposeful football
The best thing you like about Kalyani Bharat FC...
Bharat FC has some great people involved in it. Right from the owners, the players who are really receptive and hardworking to the support staff and the management team. They have made me feel very welcome and I think that has been something that has stood out for me here at Bharat FC.
How will the presence of an experienced player like Bobby Hassell give that extra zing to your relatively young squad?
Bobby has had a distinguished career in England. He has played in the Championship for 10 years. He has come across many different situations at different times over all those years and we want him to transfer that experience on how to handle such situations to the Indian lads.
We have not defined a clear role for him in terms of doing this or doing that, but he is already talking to the other boys, often pointing out certain nuances in the game. He is great at reading the state of the game and he picks up on small, innocuous things that can make a difference for the better, in the long run.
You have been the Head of Youth Development for so many Clubs in the UK all these years. What do you make out of the young Indian footballers?
The young Indian brigade is technically very talented. Maybe we have to educate them on professionalism in terms of preparation and the intensity to train. Importance of the right nutrition and the right attitude towards training in terms of having to train as they play is something that is perhaps lacking.
We are trying to change that here at Bharat FC. They cannot afford to train at 50 or 60 percent. They have to be the very best that they can be when they are training and only then will they grow as footballers. It would be great if we can change the mindset slightly, a few tweaks in the right direction. If we can do that, then I see a very bright future because the volume of talent is very impressive.
Finally, your personal aims with Bharat FC for this I-League...
I want myself and my team to be as impressive as we possibly can. It is no secret that we haven't had as long as we would have liked to prepare. There have been teething problems. Time has been spent on rectifying these problems. I would expect the team to get stronger as the season progresses.
The aim would be as any team to finish high up as possible. I just want to learn as much as I possibly can about Indian football and to be as successful as I possibly can. But maybe also pull my team to play attractive football and be respected by the opposition.