For a club that did not exist until last summer, Bengaluru FC has travelled pretty far. One win is all that stands between the side and the I-League title, an achievement remarkable by any measure. Where such a triumph would rank personally for the head coach Ashley Westwood — who, a year ago, was sacked as assistant manager after 67 days at Blackburn Rovers — is not known, but his role in the imminent championship victory has been immense.
There have been murmurs of interest from clubs in England, but Westwood insists he is here to stay. Interacting with reporters this last week, the 37-year-old spoke of the professionalism underpinning the club’s success, his own journey, and the future.
The I-League title looms: For the minute, I’m not even thinking of it. We’ve got two football matches to go and I want to win both. If we are lucky enough to win the league and we win one game and lose the other, I won’t be happy. We weren’t given an agenda to win the league; other teams were, and they are the ones who are under pressure. Not us.
Reasons behind the success: We work, by far, the hardest throughout this league. There are no two or three hour days here; it’s a full-time job. I was up at 4 a.m. this morning watching videos. That’s the way football works, especially in England. We’ve brought that work ethic over and that’s a major part of our success. Some of our players normally did not get on till 4 o’clock on some days, so to ask them to come at 8 in the morning was new. We had to explain to them what it takes to be a professional footballer and a winner.
Where would an I-League win rank in your career?: To have three Championship clubs on my CV at assistant manager level is success. Those jobs are extremely competitive, highly paid and there are hundreds of top-class coaches available in and around England. Obviously, I’m very proud of what I’ve done here, but we’ve got no trophy at the minute.
The future: BFC has got this 3-5 year plan, updating the stadium, trying to sustain this club as an icon for others to follow, and changing the standard of Indian football. I won’t rest until we’ve achieved that.
Open to coaching the Indian team?: I’m open to everything. I’m an ambitious young coach. I’ve come to diversify my CV and make myself a better coach. Wherever that takes me, it takes me. At the minute, I’m more than happy at BFC.
Can coaching overseas help your career?: Before I came to India, I looked at people like Arsene Wenger and Roy Hodgson. Coaching at different cultures and standards can’t harm you. But I’m under no illusions that I’m super coach of the world; I’m not stupid enough to believe that. When I was with Blackburn, we beat Arsenal away in the FA Cup and were in the quarterfinals against Milwall.
Thirty four days later I got the sack with the manager Michael Appleton. In football, as soon as you think you’re doing well, something comes along and bites you in the backside. I’m wary of that and I’ll keep working hard.