In this exclusive interview TheHardTackle’s Kolkata correspondent Kaustav Datta catches up with Mohun Bagan’s newly appointed high profile coach Steve Darby and the duo discusses about the Englishman’s vision of Indian football, experience with the Kolkata giants, the much anticipated duel with East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan and the future plans.


Sir, first of all let me begin by thanking you for allocating your precious time to catch-up with TheHardTackle.

My pleasure!

How is the experience so far in India?

So far, so good, if not great. However the traffic in particular is quite a shock. I’d read books by john Buchanan, the ex Knight Rider IPL coach who I used to work with in Canberra and am reading “In Spite of The Gods” at the moment, but, frankly speaking, nothing prepares you for the reality of kolkata.

Your thoughts about life at Mohun Bagan in these initial days?

So far great! The attitude of the players is top class there is a willingness to improve as players and the club administration have kept all promises they made.

How is the Mohun Bagan squad shaping up for 2011-2012 season? How is the pres-eason training sessions going on?

We work on a “progressive overload” system, where we start slowly and train for about 60 minutes  in initial days and then gradually lengthening up to 90 minutes sessions, thus making the players adapt to the system without stressing themselves physically too much. It would be crazy to start off with long runs and get players injured in the process. That was the old school of thought, but now it’s based on sports science, using, for example, heart rate measures. The idea is to get your players fit not injured or fatigued. You cannot stop impact injuries but you can reduce muscular problems with an intelligent approach. It’s exactly what the top EPL clubs do.

Players must enjoy training and come “to work” with enthusiasm, my job is to make training regime as varied but  equally purposeful at the same time.

Will he be able to bring the Mariners back on the right track?

Last year, the trophy cabinet of Mohun Bagan was empty. So is there any specific objectives and goals you have set for the team yet?

Every player and every coach wants to win every match they take part in. Nobody wants to lose. If you achieve the short term goals, then the long term targets will look after themselves.

Federation Cup is just a month away. Your comment…

Looking forward to it. It promises to be an entertaining battle. That’s the reason you coach; you have to enjoy the games.

Your comments on the eagerly anticipated Mohun Bagan East Bengal match, the Kolkata Derby? I guess you are already aware of the importance of this high profile clash.

To be very frank, the game is only famous in Kolkata! Nobody outside the country has heard anything special about it. Also we only get 3 points if we win. No more! I understand the fan rivalry associated with a derby game; as I was a  Liverpool fan and I wanted Liverpool to always beat our Merseyside rivals Everton.  I respect the enthusiasm and passion associated with this match, but as a professional it’s the 3 points which matters the most.

Your chemistry and friendship with current East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan?

I’ve known Trevor for about 10 years now. We coached in singapore together, a good coach and a great bloke off the pitch. There is mutual respect!

Where do you see Indian Football in next 5 years?

Frightening potential to be precise! As both FIFA and AFC have recognised, so many people, so much talent, but the key to long term success is great facilities, infrastructure and quality future development programs such as the Indian Arrows scheme of things. People should try and visit Melwood (Liverpool), Carrington (Man Utd) or the aspiration in Qatar and see the quality of training facilities.  It takes financial investment and long term programs to get success and I reckon Japan to be an excellent Asian model.

Mohun Bagan supposedly have roped in some top quality foreigners this season. Your comment and assessment on them?

All the foreigners appear to be top class. They must also be top class role models and good people off the pitch as well so that the aspiring kids can idolize them.

Mohun Bagan have employed a qualified physiotherapist. What is your view on the role of a professional physical trainer in your team?

We have appointed a qualified physiotherapist in Johnny Corner. Many players were injured last year and often they are rushed in to make a came back – this tendency can actually make a player highly injury-prone. We will establish an injury protocol where players would report to the physio (Johnny Corner), he would give immediate treatment and refer further problems to our team doctor, Dr. Roy. The physio will also conduct rehabilitation and recovery programs. Johnny has worked with the first team at English Premiership side Middlesborough and has great references from people such as Bryan Robson.

The fitness training will be integrated into technical training by the coaching staff. That is what happens in modern football. Real Madrid gaffer Jose mourhino is a firm believer of this idiology. Players are economic assets; you must treat them well and try to get them on the pitch for as many games as possible and in the best condition.

Mohun Bagan Supporters in your eyes…

Enthusiastic, passionate, love the game and the club – what more can you expect? Players respond positively to positive support and having a passionate fan-base always aides to a club’s success.

Which of the two, you would stress while making the 1st XI – big names or quality?

A coach never wins matches, players do; in fact teams do. Football is a team game; hence naturally, the most important thing is the team, not the individual. All the great players I have worked with have been hard working and wanted to be part of the team. Robson, Reid, Viduka, Neil, Zelic, Schwartzer, Emerton – were not only great players but also great team members. That’s the fundamental concept of any team game.

Sir thank you very much for obliging and taking time out from your busy schedule. It’s really an overwhelming experience.

My pleasure!


~ Kaustav Datta