NEW: ASHLEY WESTWOOD INTERVIEW!
Ashley Westwood, 37, is manager of Bengaluru FC, who are top of the I League. As a player, he won the FA Youth Cup with Manchester United, before going onto play for Crewe, Bradford, and Sheffield Wednesday, among others. As a coach, he’s been assistant to Michael Appleton at Portsmouth, Blackpool, and Blackburn. Here, he talks about life in India, and learning from Sir Alex…
When my agent told me about the job in India, I was a little bit sceptical. I�����d been working in the Championship – was India a backwards move? Was it bad for my career? But I spoke to Michael Appleton, chatted to a few chief executives in England, spoke to the English FA, and decided to apply. I haven’t looked back since. I’ve gained some fantastic knowledge and experience.
Bengaluru FC is a new club, set up last summer in Bangalore. The franchise is owned by the JSW Group, which is a huge, multi-billion dollar steel and energy company in India. But they didn’t try to sell me an oil painting: they told me it’s a new club, there wasn’t much here, and a lot of things needed setting up and organising. We started from scratch, really. It was a blank canvas.
When I arrived, I walked into a training facility that was two inches thick with dust. So I went into the city and found a nice gym ��� a Fitness First ��� I sorted out full-time chefs, a kitchen, stretching rooms, meeting rooms. We designed the dressing rooms so they’re like something in England: plasma screens at half-time, Apple Macs hooked up, everything you’d expect at a top English club.
When we play away, the facilities aren’t always fantastic, but we make sure there’s no moaning culture. The stadiums are good, the pitches are fine, so there’s nothing to blame. We���re lucky to have supportive owners that pay for the best hotels, and they allow me to arrange the travel. No one sticks their nose in and says ���You can’t do this” or “You can’t do that”, so everything is good.
I brought over two players from England. John Johnson, who came through at Middlesbrough and was captain at Northampton, and Curtis Osano, who came through at Reading and played for Rushden, Luton, and AFC Wimbledon. They’re two centre-halves, 25 or 26, athletic, and they���re good boys. They integrate well with the Indian players. They didn’t come over with a swagger.
I actually held interviews with 15 or 20 players in London, who we might have been interested in bringing over. That might sound degrading – asking professional footballers to interview – but we had to get it right. You’re only allowed three foreigners, plus one from Asia, and we already had Johnny Menyongar, who’s a Liberian America. So there were only two spots. We couldn���t mess up.
I used the interviews to judge the players’ character. It’s no good moving to India, then, two months later, saying they can�������t handle it. I wante