Making his mark in a capricious world

Charged up... East Bengal coach Trevor James Morgan with his wards.-RITU RAJ KONWAR

“We have to really work hard to win the I-League crown. I think, at the moment we are among the top two-three teams in India and we have got to make that final push to be No. 1,” Trevor Morgan, the East Bengal coach, spells out his immediate goal to Amitabha Das Sharma.

Trevor James Morgan, the English coach of East Bengal, has come to lend stability to a position which is often considered the most insecure one in the volatile Kolkata football scenario. With officials and fans exerting pressure to win every trophy and every match, Morgan has turned the concept on its head by successfully redefining the notion of success. East Bengal under him has reached a new realm of accomplishment. The erudite and affable coach spoke to Sportstar about his challenging tenure, the club and the future of Indian football.

Question: You have created a record of sorts, as a foreign coach, spending three seasons with a top Indian club.

Answer: It means I am doing something right. Otherwise, I would not have been here for three years. It is not an easy job but it is something which I like doing. I like working with the players, but when you are a coach of a team like East Bengal, you also have to sustain a level of excellence.

What were your expectations when you came here?

I did not have any expectations. I came here with an open mind and certainly did not have any preconception about what to expect or work with. I feel that when you go overseas (non-footballing countries), it will be a bit different from countries that are a bit developed in football as regards to infrastructure. So it will be ridiculous for me to come here and see great training facilities with all the equipment that you need.

Your tenure has seen East Bengal win a lot of trophies. But the I-League crown still remains unconquered…

To me it is important to try and win every game. That’s also what the people in the club want. I realise the importance of it (the I-League) as the club has not won it for a long time. But to put things in perspective, probably since 2005, the club was in a decline with regard to trophies. But in the last two years, we have come a long way in terms of progress in terms of regaining the winning form. We have to really work hard to win the I-League crown. I think, at the moment we are among the top two-three teams in India and we have got to make that final push to be No. 1.

Goa has clearly overtaken Bengal in terms of winning the I-League. The title has not come to Bengal since 2004, when East Bengal won it last. How do you explain this phenomenon?

If I take a step outside and look in, football in Goa seems to be pretty settled. Armando (Colaco) is in Dempo for (more than) five to six years and the nucleus of the teams there have remained the same. Karim (Bencherifa) has come to coach Salgaocar two years back, Sporting (Clube de Goa) got promoted and they have kept the same coach and nucleus of the team. Churchill has changed coaches quite frequently but they have got some quality players. It is all about stability, which breeds success. These clubs have been stable for a long period of time. But unfortunately when you look at the other way, Mohun Bagan has had five coaches. You have to accept that when a new coach comes in he takes time to put new ideas in place.

The big clubs in Bengal enjoy more support compared to the ones in Goa. Is it a help or hindrance?

Morgan... plotting an ascent to the summit.-AMITABHA DAS SHARMA

Clubs in Kolkata are always under pressure first of all from the media. Media coverage here is huge. People are always looking to open up arguments over small issues and draw in the supporters. It’s an undesirable situation where the sport tends to suffer.

Recently the top-scorer of your team, for the past two seasons, Tolgay Ozbey, switched over to Mohun Bagan, creating a bitter struggle between the clubs. Did the issue highlight the faulty transfer system or was it something else?

I always feel there should be a standard contract system for every professional player. And every single contract should have the same words to make it universal and rule out contradictions. Actually there’s nothing wrong with Tolgay. He was top-scorer for East Bengal for a couple of seasons and then decided to move on when he got a better offer. If you look at it from Mohun Bagan’s point of view, they had just lost the Calcutta League and may have needed something to give their fans hope for the new season. So the best thing is to announce the singing of the top-scorer of East Bengal, which was a great coup for them. If they (Mohun Bagan) had waited for two or three weeks, the whole affair, which went for almost four months, would not have happened.

Indian clubs generally select the coach after deciding the team. Do you think the coaches should be given more power?

Yes, that has to change. Because when I go to work I would like to have the tools that I want. If I am a bricklayer and someone gives me a saw to work with, I can’t work. Because it’s not the officials who are in trouble, it’s the coach who loses his job. So you have to be responsible for the people you want in.

Which shape or system is best suited to Indian football?

It will have to be the coach’s choice. A majority of the people here prefer to play the 4-2-4 or 4-4-2 system. That’s a way I also prefer. Everyone has a vision and an interpretation of his own. But you generally adopt a system depending upon the players available. If we had two wide men, who could go up and down, and two full backs, who could go forward and get back, and two midfielders, who could go box to box, and two good strikers, we could play 4-4-2. But we don’t have that always and we have to adopt a different approach, which is suitable to the players we have.

How important is the All India Football Federation’s announcement to allow four foreigners per team in the I-League?

I don’t know. Because you cannot guarantee that everybody won’t bring in two foreign strikers. Where will it leave the Indian strikers then? Like in East Bengal, we have Robin (Singh) and Manandeep (Singh) in the Indian team. If we play two foreign strikers where will they go? How much can they or Indian football benefit from the proposed new regulation?

The Asian Football Confederation is insisting on turning the I-League into a more professional league. What is the real interpretation of professionalism?

If you think about a pyramid, the base needs to be solid. If you have a solid base, then everything is okay at the top. And that’s where they have got to start. That’s what (the new technical director of the All India Football Federation) Rob Baan is trying to do, by putting the regional academies in. Indian football might not get the benefit of it immediately and it may take seven-eight years to happen. You have to be prepared to wait during this period. I am sure nobody would have thought 15-20 years ago that Japan or Korea would reach the quarters and semis in the World Cup. Then why shouldn’t it happen to India? People here have to be committed to it and plan it right, to get the right infrastructure in place.