Phil Brown: Reaching playoffs the aim for Pune City

In an exclusive interview with Sportstar, FC Pune City's manager Phil Brown spoke about the club's objective for the season, Ashique Kuruniyan's performances for the national team and more.

Phil Brown was appointed as manager of FC Pune City, replacing Miguel Angel Portugal, on Christmas day.   -  Getty Images

Phil Brown has now been in football for close to four decades, spending the first two decades as a player and the last two as a manager. All those years have been spent in the confines of the English shores. From the highs of playing in the First Division and managing in the Premier League to the struggles for promotion from League 2, he has experienced them all.

However, the newly-appointed FC Pune City head coach isn’t taking his first overseas job lightly. While his appointment was officially announced on Christmas day, he began his preparation much before the league paused for the international break.

"I have people who have been around to watch the past two games in the ISL campaign [against Kerala Blasters and FC Goa] and I have watched DVD footage," he says, before adding, "I was impressed with the attitude and the mentality, the work rate and the closing down against good opposition — certainly when Goa was concerned.”

Though only six fixtures remain in the season, those two victories — Pune’s only back-to-back wins this campaign — have given the club an outside chance of reaching the playoffs.

With the team nine points adrift of qualification for the playoffs and only a third of the season remaining, he doesn’t want to look beyond the next game at this point. "The playoffs are the aim, for sure. But I am not going to jump ahead of myself. The target, realistically, is to win the next game. We have to try win that game and then move on to the next one."

"We found ourselves up against Goa, one of the better teams in the division, and we beat them. That is something we have to emphasise to the players. It is something we have to believe we can do for the next six games. We have done it before and we can do it again."

Ashique Kuruniyan makes his mark

Ashique was one of the positives from India's Asian Cup campaign. The Malappuram-born forward, who predominantly played as a wide forward on the left of an attacking three behind Sunil Chhetri, impressed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and his performances haven’t gone unnoticed with the 59-year-old Englishman.

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Ashique Kuruniyan's ability to switch positions during matches, as he did for India at the Asian Cup, impresses Phil Brown.   -  AP

 

"I watched the game against UAE more importantly after the victory against Thailand. To watch one of our players in a position where we just lack that little bit of depth, and to watch Ashique up front in the first half and play left midfield in the second half, that impresses me. To be able to change positions at such a young age spoke a lot about his mentality and that is something I can do with," he said.

With Emiliano Alfaro loaned out to ATK and Iain Hume coming back from an ACL injury, Brown hopes to have Ashique up to speed before the away fixture against Chennaiyin FC on February 2.

On the issue of captaincy

Constantine handed the captain's armband to three different players in the Asian Cup, with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Sunil Chhetri and Pronay Halder leading the Blue Tigers against Thailand, UAE and Bahrain respectively. Brown, though, doesn’t believe in rotating captains.

"It is always nice to have three, four maybe five players who can make decisions for the rest of the squad but the captain is a one-man show for me. You name your captain at the start of the season and he should be the manager or the coach on the pitch making decisions," he said.

The national team aside, the Stallions themselves have seen four captains in twelve games so far. Brown, however, hasn’t decided on who his captain will be but he is "looking around" and will make a decision once he has all the players back from international duty.