After three seasons of Spanish flavour, Odisha FC have roped in British manager and former South African national team coach Stuart Baxter to lead the club in the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL) season.
Baxter, who has vast managerial experience in eight different countries, will head to India for the first time in his career. The former Bafana Bafana head coach spoke about the upcoming project with the ISL side and what he wants to achieve.
He believes the factors behind winning a game are the same everywhere and it is the same in India as well.
“In principle, you can take every country in the world, you can take every team in the world. Especially, the successful ones and you can say the same things that you see here in India are in the Premier League. The same six things to win a game of football and those are principles. Let’s call those the supporting walls of this building. If you want to put a window there or a door there and paint the wall red or blue that is about style. But, whichever style, you have to achieve those six things.
“So, I will be using these six things because that is what everybody uses and then, it will depend on the players we have, will depend on what suits them best and will depend on my ability to communicate. Hope, the players will learn quickly, I will learn quickly and we go on the same page and then we will be able to do those six things whichever style we decide goes with the best.”
Baxter also suggested that he is not a great believer of completely moulding the existing style of the team and imposing his own philosophy on the players.
“The Spanish coaches before me must have given the players a certain flavour and I don’t believe in breaking everything down and rebuilding it because there’s obviously some good work done. I remember after I won a league a new coach came in and said, ‘No, just because you won the league, doesn’t mean everything is ok.’ So, he broke everything down and the team finished eighth.
“I think there’s some good work done and I will retain that good work and hopefully, I will build upon it and hopefully, I will find a way of playing which we all will enjoy and it will give us some result. I don’t have expectations. The people I have spoken to say that the Indian players are ambitious.
He took an interesting analogy to assert that he will try and help Indian footballers play to their strengths.
"I had an interesting conversation with Faf du Plessis (the South African cricketer). He said that the Indian cricketers (sportsman) are fantastic when on the front foot when they go on the back foot, they have too much to do. If they don’t do that they will be totally unplayable.
“So, my job, I believe, is to make sure that my Odisha players feel like mentally on the front foot in any case and I think all of those things will go together into a style. We will bring in together the works that have been done until now and new stuff that we wanna do and describe it in a way that the players feel “Yeah! Let’s go on the front foot.
He also insisted that he was looking to adapt to the squad rather than imposing his philosophy on them.
“The onus is on the coaches because I know a lot of coaches (good friends or colleagues of mine) - they go to a new setup, not even a new culture may be in the same country they are working. They take their way of playing football and they impose it on the squad. Many times, the squad doesn’t want that.
"I need to be the coach that the squad needs and not the coach that I always wanted to be no matter what the culture, no matter what the personality, no matter what the style, I impose myself; I don’t think that’s right. I need to be the coach that this squad of players need.”