Mumbai City is on a mission to achieve what no club in the Indian Super League has managed to so far - to defend its title. The Islanders have not only the ISL crown to defend but also have the ISL League Winners Shield in its possession. And the man who has been brought in to oversee this operation, Des Buckingham, is intent on getting the job done.
Buckingham said the club is greedy to retain its silverware. "Personally, I won't say it will be a failure (if we don't retain our trophies), but it is something that we're all striving towards. I'll be very clear on that. We as a club are striving towards retaining both of those titles," the Englishman said on Tuesday.
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The 36-year-old, who is the youngest coach this ISL season, is keen to retain the club's free-flowing attacking form of play and pick up from where Sergio Lobera left last season. "The first thing is to recognise the excellent work Sergio and his team achieved last year. They achieved things this club has never achieved. It's important to highlight some of the good work that had taken place and we don't want to throw that away. In terms of the playing style, I watched all of the games last year - it was an exciting brand of attacking football put in place by Sergio and his team and that really strikes true through to my philosophy. I will try to add to it, not change it," he said.
He added that he has been in touch with Lobera, who has been promoted within the City Football Group, since last December and that the two have constantly bounced ideas off one another.
Buckingham, who had his first taste of Indian football when he travelled to Mumbai as the assistant coach of the New Zealand team for the 2018 Intercontinental Cup, says his vision here is to add value and build Mumbai City FC and take it further from where he picked it up. "My vision for the next couple of years is to build upon the success that the team has achieved last year. When you define what 'success' is - we have two trophies sitting in our cabinet, which externally are a real measure of results. But then, we also have other measures that we want to build upon, from the playing style that we saw last year."
While taking over the reins of a champion team and defending two titles at a go can be an intimidating task, Buckingham sees it as an exciting project. Mumbai City FC was the first team in the ISL's seven-season history to win the ISL Shield and the title last campaign.
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"I think it is exciting, you want to be the first to do something. Sergio was the first to lead the club to both titles, so if we can build towards being the first (to achieve something) again - whether it is being the first to a certain stage in the Asian Champions League or if it is retaining our titles, it is an exciting task rather than working with teams where you might have to struggle to get playing. We're very clear on what we want to do and now it is just about the players going out and expressing themselves," he said.
"Often when you come into a team as a head coach, it is because the things have not worked for the team or the coach, and you pick up a club when the results have not gone well. I don't see this as a rebuild. We have a core group of players we had last year, and I find it exciting to add and build on this success. It is after seven years, we were able to secure both the trophies we were chasing. The excitement is to try and add another chapter to our story," he added.
Buckingham also revealed the club took a decision last night to name ace defender Mourtada Fall as the captain for the season. Indian stalwarts Mandar Rao Dessai and Rowllin Borges will be his deputies. Mumbai City FC begins its title defence when it takes on FC Goa at the Fatorda Stadium on November 22.
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