Sunil Chhetri recalls the day Bengaluru FC manager dropped him from the starting XI on Sir Alex's advice
Being the national captain and a well-known figure in India certainly has its perks as Sunil Chhetri stands as one of those players who are guaranteed to start every game for the side they represent in the country. But not under Bengaluru FC manager Ashley Westwood.
The Indian Express recently ran a story while recalling quotes from Chhetri after the striker was benched last season for the first two matches by Westwood for youngster Malemnganba Meitei. According to the report, it was former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson who had advised Westwood to do so.
Westwood, who is a graduate from the Manchester United academy, reached out to the legendary manager for his advice after he was in a dilemma regarding team selection. Meitei was one of the team’s top performers during the pre-season, but Chhetri’s stature was one of the reasons for Westwood’s skepticism to drop him.
Westwood told me I would be dropped for the first two games: Chhetri
Chhetri recalled the meeting he had with Westwood before the season got underway,
“He called me to the room and said, ‘you’re not going to play the first two games.’ I was zapped,” Chhetri was quoted by the Express. “He told me exactly why – because Malemnganba was playing really well and it wouldn’t have been fair to tell him that our captain has come back and he should play.”
“Ashley told me, ‘show me something good while training and I’ll put you there,” he added.
Chhetri, who was more accustomed to playing in a much more central role than Westwood was asking him to play in, struggled on the wings. Westwood wanted Chhetri on the left flanks which would add more width to the game.
However, being the determined player that he is, Chhetri did prove his mettle to the coach and was back in the squad after two matches. He ended the season with the I-League title, the joint top scorer with 14 goals and also the AIFF Player of the Year award.