I-League 2022: A balance of experience and youth will help us challenge for the title says RoundGlass Punjab head coach Ashley Westwood: Ashley Westwood’s name is synonymous with every Indian football fan especially due to his famous stint with Bengaluru FC. The English tactician was pivotal in guiding the Blues to two I-League titles before going back to his homeland. However, Westwood now returns to the I-League with a new challenge to guide RoundGlass Punjab FC to greater heights. Follow Live updates on Indian football only on IndsideSport.IN
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Westwood highlighted how he was intrigued by the club’s vision and approach convinced him that this was the project that could bring him back to India. Ahead of the new season, the RoundGlass Punjab tactician addressed the media and spoke about his team’s preparations, challenges in a bio bubble and more.
“My first opinion of RoundGlass Punjab as a football team was that it had a vision and ambitions like my own. I didn’t want to join a football club just for the sake of joining. It was more about the project,” Westwood began.
The upcoming I-League will once again be held in Kolkata in a bio bubble. Therefore to prepare for the new season, RoundGlass Punjab have been in a bio bubble since October and are going through rigorous pre-season training. While there are plenty of challenges living in a bio bubble, Westwood highlights the positives from the situation.
“Pre-season has been good. It’s a new team and the more time we spend with each other, the better it is, ” added Westwood. “Being in this environment, which means living and working together day in and day out, helps bring the team together and allows us to find out more about one another and understand the character of each member of the team, which is part of our decision-making process.”
He also added that a bio bubble ensures that the players are more focused on achieving a settled goal. “Another benefit of being together is that we can focus on football, as there are no distractions, and we can control the environment. We are trying to keep things challenging for the players and, at the same time, ensure that it is not monotonous. It is about people being honest and providing something that all of us can look forward to. The situation is not ideal but is something we need to overcome,” asserted the Englishman.
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Westwood pointed out how an amalgamation of experience and youth is needed at the club to win the league. Therefore he has signed some of his former players who were a part of his setup in Bengaluru. These players include Rino Anto, CK Vineeth, Robin Singh, Shankar Sampingiraj, Keegan Pereira, etc. He believes that the experience brought in by the veterans can help the youngsters get accustomed to his methods of coaching.
“If I were to bring 25 new players then it would have taken us a longer time than 10 weeks to set things in motion and for me to put across my methods and philosophy,” he said.
“I needed to get six, seven, eight players who knew me before, how I operate, and my demands from the players and can also be an example for the younger players.”
RoundGlass Punjab had an impressive debut season in the I-League last time since their new ownership. The team management however were looking to scale greater heights therefore they roped in Ashley Westwood the lead the side. The Englishman who was appointed in July already made his mark during the summer transfer window.
Speaking on his new signings, Westwood highlighted how a balance of experience and youthful energy is a recipe for success. He said, “The players we have signed give us balance and have been brought on board for not only their abilities but also their professionalism and experience. I know the players I’ve worked with earlier will do things the right way and be role models for not only the younger players at the club, but also those at our Academy and our fans. We wanted a balance of youth and experience in the squad so we can challenge for the I-League.”
Lastly, the 45-year-old highlighted the changes that he has observed ever since leaving the country. He feels that in these seven years, clubs have been more professional and they know what it takes to bring up footballers. He also highlighted how grassroots have improved and it has seen the growth of several younger players rising to the scene.
“I think in these six years a lot has changed. Clubs have been more professional in their approach and even the players know what they need for their development. Grassroots have improved and therefore we are seeing so many young players coming up. The gap between the fitness of Indian and foreign players have reduced considerably. Overall it is a good sign for Indian football but we should continue growing in the right direction as the goal is still a long way away,” the former Bengaluru FC tactician concluded.
I-League 2022: A balance of experience and youth will help us challenge for the title says RoundGlass Punjab head coach Ashley Westwood