THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Ashley Westwood: We cannot wait to get started

Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru FC coach Ashley Westwood said his team are unfazed by the pressures of their title defence as the I-League champions kicked-off their pre-season training at the Bangalore Football Stadium, in Bangalore, on Friday.

The team, including the four new signings, went through a light session and Westwood stressed the need to get the boys to the standards the coaching staff has set for them, this season. “We are looking forward to the season and cannot wait to get started. We’ve only been away four weeks but it feels like ages. We have valuable additions and will stress on setting a platform for the coming season,” said Westwood.

While Bengaluru FC may not have shopped for the more famous names in the summer, Westwood believes the new signings bring with them just what the club needs. “In Lalchhuanmawia, we have a left-back who is athletic, has ability, a good left foot and more importantly will be serious completion for Keegan (Pereira). Eugeneson (Lyngdoh), in the midfield, has played well against us and is good with both feet while Udanta (Kumam) – for me – is one of the best young players in the country. He is a rough diamond and will learn things here.”

The gaffer believes the inclusions will create competition within the team for places in the starting XI. “We need genuine competition. Look at the German team. They would have made two or three changes and you wouldn’t even notice. It is important to create an environment like that.”

The biggest signing for Bengaluru FC this season was that of marquee player and former England under-20 skipper, Joshua Walker. The Englishman replaced Liberian John Menyongar – a move that raised a few eyebrows given the impact the latter had on Bengaluru’s title triumph. But Westwood put the questions and doubts to rest. “Menyongar was a No.10 – an attacking midfielder. But we had to get him to adapt in a role that suited our style of play. With Josh, he is more naturally suited to play in that position. He has a good range of passing. While both have their own strengths, Josh ticks a few more boxes than Menyongar. Also, he is ten years younger than Menyongar and at this club, we have our eye on the future.”

“But I have always maintained that we have to respect what Menyongar did for this club. If we could have had five foreign players, he would still be at the club. I’m sure Manchester United wanted to keep Rio Ferdinand and Chelsea, Ashley Cole. But that’s football – you have to evolve and improve. You can’t stand still.”

Apart from defending their I-League title, Bengaluru FC will compete in the AFC Cup and Westwood says the team will definitely have a plan. “We are going to go into Asia which means coming across teams with different styles. We’ll work with different combinations and situations and that’s what pre-season is for,” concluded Westwood.