‘A fantastic opportunity for the young Indian players’

Striking the right notes. NorthEast United FC manager Ricki Herbert has a discussion with his players during a training session in Guwahati.-RITU RAJ KONWAR

“The role (as the manager of NorthEast United FC) offers a unique opportunity for developing Indian football. It is an honour and privilege to be a part of this,” says Ricki Herbert. By Amitabha Das Sharma.

Ricki Herbert is credited with putting New Zealand on the world football map. He helped New Zealand qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup — the first Kiwi coach to do so.

Herbert combines the attributes of a professional manager and the sensitivity of a grass-root development administrator. NorthEast United FC was enamoured by this rare combination, as it handed over the responsibility of the team in the Indian Super League to Herbert.

Speaking to Sportstar, the chief coach says that his challenge will be to ensure the increase in the overall performance of the players through development of talent. Herbert’s philosophy is definitely in line with the objective of the ISL, which hopes to develop Indian football.

Excerpts:

Question: What challenges did you look forward to while accepting the job as the manager of North East United FC?

Answer: This role offers the challenges of supporting the development of talent and the overall increase of player performance in Indian football.

What made you accept the offer of managing an unknown side featuring in a tournament happening for the first time?

The role offers a unique opportunity for developing Indian football. It is an honour and privilege to be a part of this.

How has the team’s pre-season training been? Are you satisfied with the team composition and how do you fancy its chances in the tournament?

The training has been good so far. I am very happy with the team and congratulate the NEUFC management on the talented players they have acquired for the team. We only hope for the best and hope to perform to our best in every game.

You have a mix of world-class professionals and a bunch of Indian players raised in a semi-professional set-up. How do you look at this scenario?

This is a fantastic opportunity for the young Indian players to train and play alongside the International players. My role is to integrate both into a team strategy.

What is your coaching philosophy in a tournament that looks to elevate Indian football? Is this job more challenging than taking the New Zealand national team to the 2010 FIFA World Cup?

We will look to adopt a positive and enthusiastic brand of football and look to maximise the passion of all our players. All roles are challenges, and I see this role as very unique, as it is new. But I have a very strong background in forming a successful and consistent club and national environment.

You have a remarkable success story with the New Zealand team. How did you make it happen? How well will that experience help you in your new assignment?

I invested time in players and a vision and developed a power culture and belief. So I am looking forward to adopting some of those principles in NorthEast United FC.

You also have an expertise in grass-root development, considering the fact that you run an academy nurturing football talent. What will be your plans with NorthEast United FC?

This is an area that will be crucial to the ongoing success and progress of football in our region. There are a number of plans, which will be discussed a number of times in the future and hope players from our grass-root development programme will play for NEUFC.