Last season, Mohun Bagan endured one of their worst runs of form in decades. This was the first time that Asia’s oldest club went trophy less since 1973. Mohun Bagan officials have moved quickly to reinforce their squad for the coming season. With elections at the club imminent, the officials have worked double hard to ensure that Mohun Bagan enjoys a successful season in 2011/2012. Till now Bagan has officially announced the arrivals of Odafa Okalie, N Pradeep and Rahim Nabi, while a host of big name players have also been linked to the club. The position of coach was still empty, a position where Mohun Bagan has been worryingly unstable in the last few seasons. Few days back the suspense was finally broken when Bagan supremo Swapan Sadhan “Tutu” Basu announced Englishman Steve Darby as the new Mohun Bagan coach. Let us take a look at Darby’s coaching profile.
Early Career and Success in Malaysia
Steve Darby had an undistinguished career as a player. He played as a goalkeeper after graduating from Liverpool’s Academy but never played for any high profile clubs. He understood that coaching was his final target as he obtained his UEFA ‘A’ License in 1979, when he was just 24 years old, making him one of youngest ever coaches to get this degree. Initially, he was appointed as an instructor by FIFA to increase the standard of football in third world countries. He worked as an instructor for Oceania Football Association in 1981. His five year stint with the Australian FA between 1990 and 1995 helped Darby to land his first serious club coaching job. In 1995, he took over Sydney Olympics, a club in New South Wales Premier League. His time in Sydney was not overtly successful as the club struggled to perform consistently but came close to winning the play-off final.
Darby’s coaching career really took off when he joined Johor FA in Malaysia. Johor had never even reached the final of Malaysian FA Cup in their history before Darby guided them to the FA Cup title in 1998. In the final, Johor defeated four time finalists Sabah FC 1-0. Darby also guided the club to a Malaysian Premier League title (second division) in 1999. The club also finished runners-up in the Malaysian Charity Shield that year. After a successful three year spell with Johor, Darby left to take over Vietnam Women’s National Team. Here also success followed him as he guided Vietnam Ladies’ team to their first ever gold in football, in 2001 South East Asian Games.
Asian Success with Home United
In 2002, Darby joined Home United in Singapore. The club had finished in top four positions in 2000 and 2001 and needed an experienced coach to push for the league title. Darby came and delivered results immediately as United finished runner-up in the league. In 2003, Home United not only won the league title but also completed a double by winning Singapore Cup. This was first double in history of the club. Darby’s three year spell at Home United proved to be a golden era for the “Protectors”. In these three seasons, they twice finished runner-up in the League, winning it once while they reached three back to back Cup finals, winning two titles (2003 and 2005).
Steve Darby’s biggest achievement with Home United came in the AFC Cup when the team reached the semi-final in 2004. Boosted by Brazilian Egmar Goncalvez’s goals, United topped their group scoring an impressive 19 goals in 6 matches. In the quarter-final, they continued their stellar form by defeating Lebanese Club Olympic Beirut 5-4 on aggregate. In the away leg at Beirut, Home United clawed their way back from being 3-1 down to earn a creditable 3-3 draw before wrapping up the tie with a 2-1 win in Singapore. Sadly, eventual champions Al Jaish proved too strong for Steve Darby’s team in the semi-final as they were convincingly defeated by a 6-1 scoreline. In 2005 AFC Cup, Home United topped their group again but got knocked out in the quarter-finals after losing to Lebanese club Al-Nejmeh.
After leaving Home United, Darby went back to Malaysia to join Perak FA. In this period, he was also linked with the job for Indian team but Bob Houghton got it instead. He led Perak to a Cup final and a runners-up trophy in Malaysian Cup. In Perak, his most important success was guiding the team to AFC Cup quarter-finals, which was the best performance from a Malaysian club at that time.
Thailand National Team
In 2008, Darby left Perak to become Brian Robson’s assistant for Thailand National team. He was also the main coach for Thai Under-23 team. The Robson-Darby duo led Thailand to a quarter final appearance in 2010 Asian Games and in general were acclaimed for Thailand’s attacking style of play. Darby’s own U23 team flattered to deceive in South East Asian Games when they were shockingly knocked out in group stages. Darby left the Thai job along with Robson due to latter’s health related problems.
Steve Darby is unarguably the most high profile coach in Indian football, in recent times. His curriculum vitae will be unrivaled in India, where coaches have rarely won league and cup titles in multiple countries. He has decades of experience behind him and usually prefers an attacking style of play by deploying a 4-2-3-1 system. Like Dempo coach Armando Colaco, Darby is also a big fan of legendary Dynamo Kyiv coach Valeriy Lobanovsky.
Darby also has a keen eye for stats. In an interview given to a Germany based Thai football site, Darby had this to say about 2010 World Cup.
“In terms of Thai football, I regularly send information to the Thai TPL coaches and from this World Cup I sent the following –
Goals scored: 145
1 touch 104…………71%
2 touch 28…………19%
2+ touch 13…………10%
right foot 89…………61%
left foot 26…………18%
set pieces 43…………30%
inside box 128…………88%
The possible benefit of stats (similar to most tournaments except decrease in set piece goals) shooting practice should be done inside box…1 or maximum 2 touch (90% of goals)…coming from all angles waste of time shooting practice outside of box?? Do we work enough on realistic heading practice 21 % of goals? When defending should we work on pushing players on to their left foot? (unless they are overtly left footed) set pieces down…was it the ball? or better defending at set pieces…I have never seen so many quality free kick takers put the ball over the bar.” [sic]
Under these circumstances, it’s important that Mohun Bagan officials let the coach do his job independently. Kolkata football officials are infamous for their interference with coaching duties and a high profile coach such as Darby will never tolerate these things. Steve Darby is a proven coach and he would need some time to get acclimatized to Indian football. The countries where he has coached till now usually had better facilities than those he will get at Mohun Bagan. The officials as well as Mohun Bagan’s huge fan base need to be patient with Darby in the first few months. He is sure to bring results once he gets adequate time.