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Interview with ex-Mumbai City coach Steve Darby: Nicolas Anelka gives 100 percent every time

Former Mumbai City assistant coach Steve Darby talks Nicolas Anelka, Andre Moritz and more in this exclusive interview

Steve Darby ISL Mumbai City ISL
Steve Darby was the assistant coach for Mumbai City in the ISL’s first season in 2014

Former Mumbai City assistant coach Steve Darby has spoken warmly of his desire to see Mumbai City FC achieve success this forthcoming season. Having been on board with the club during the inaugural season, current Laos national coach Darby, who’s busy preparing for a number of crucial World Cup qualifiers against Korea Republic and Kuwait, feels that this season could very well see the club kick on and build upon some of the positive foundations they laid at times in the recent past.

Speaking exclusively with Sportskeeda he had nothing but praise for how his overall experience panned out in India, citing his admiration for new team manager Nicolas Anelka as one of the main highlights of his tenure there.

“It was an excellent personal experience. Perhaps summarized at how you never stop learning. Nicolas Anelka joined us, and to be honest I was wary as I had read so much negative stuff about him. In fact, it was the exact opposite,” Laos head-honcho declared.

“On the pitch he was outstanding and gave 100 percent every time and in training. However, off the pitch, the man was not the image! He was humble, almost shy and a dedicated family man. He had the immediate respect of all the Indian boys. It showed that – and I should have known – a lot of the media is producing garbage. It also confirmed to me that the best players work hard.”

Indeed, Anelka has taken up the role of player-manager for the upcoming campaign and the ex-Arsenal and Chelsea frontman promises to add a real spark to their front line.

Nicolas Anelka Mumbai City FC ISL
Anelka has the respect of the Indian players at Mumbai City FC, according to Darby

Edging further away from the distorted image of him as a controversial character, he is a real figure of respect at his new club and looks to have really settled in. Having won the Premier League, Champions League, European Championship and so much more in his illustrious career, his enormous experience is sure to play a vital role in how everything goes in the coming months.

That said, Darby was also full of praise for a few other squad members in particular who shone while he was involved, singling out striker Andre Moritz and defender Manuel Friedrich for compliments, too.

“We had two other great players in the squad, Moritz who had played for Crystal Palace and Bolton Wanderers, and Friedrich a German International from Dortmund, who had played in the 2013 UCL semi finals. They led by example.”

Moritz grabbed three goals in his debut season in the ISL, some distance behind the prolific Elano, the top scorer who picked up as many as eight strikes. Nevertheless, the work-rate and hunger exhibited by the ex-Eagles star made a real impression on the powers in charge and he’s been kept on again.

Having recently signed the high-profile trio of Franz Bertin, Frederic Piquionne and Cristian Bustos, they have a good core in place once more. So, Mumbai have a real opportunity to improve on the seventh-place finish they managed last time out.

MCFC trio
Mumbai City recently signed (L-R) Cristian Bustos, Frederic Piquionne and Franz Bertin

Even with a few teething problems still to be resolved over the course of the next few weeks, the general consensus is that they will find their rhythm in time for the start of the season where they will face Pune City FC away from home on October 5 in what is expected to be a feisty Maharashtra derby.

As far as Darby is concerned, Anelka doesn’t face an easy task from the dugouts in the coming months, but the experienced 60-year-old coach feels passionate about the fact that the former France international certainly has a good platform to work with in his current role.

“He has the respect of the fans and the players so that’s a good start! But the reality of coaching as a foreigner he may have to adapt to, such as finding a training ground! Or the balls not being pumped up. Also he now has the job of leaving players out, always the hardest part.” 

Nevertheless, at least in Darby’s eyes, success is nothing short of what the club ultimately fully deserve.

“The Indian media can be a culture shock and he may find some of the questions frustrating. But I wish him well and he, the players and the fans deserve success.”

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