Pre-season allows us to work together towards our targets: Mumbai City FC coach Des Buckingham
In April 2022, Mumbai City FC became the first Indian football team to win a game in the prestigious competition that is the AFC Champions League – the top most tier of club football in the continent.
It was a big moment for Indian football, and as the new season nears, high-flying Mumbai City FC are keen to build on that.
Coach Des Buckingham, who is in his second season with the Islanders, is excited about the 19-day pre-season camp, which got underway on Monday (26 July) in Jebel Ali, Dubai. The Englishman expects his team to make solid progress before the 2022/23 season kicks off in August 2022 with the Durand Cup.
“I understand the league a lot better in comparison from last season, so there’s a lot of learnings we’ll take from that, which will help us in the next season. But it’s the working relationship with the players and spending the eight months that we did together and we saw a good example of what happens when we played the Champions League. It helps the players understand how we want to play and what we want to do. It also enables us to have a very solid base from the pre-season point of view, which is why I am really excited about the upcoming year,” the coach had said during a roundtable on Saturday.
He further stated, “This year we are going into pre-season a lot sooner and we have most of our group here as well. I think the biggest difference is the amount of time you get to spend with the players, as we did ahead of the Champions League when we went to the Abu Dhabi to prepare. Now that’s the plan this time too.”
The 37-year-old also expressed his delight at the transfer activity the team had completed, and noted that additionally retaining the core group will put the team in a very good place.
“We’ve now had eight months working together, so the players understand how we function, and we don’t have to revisit all of that this season. It allows us to hit the ground running, get our players fit and then manage the games as and when they come – it puts in a stronger position than 12 months ago.”
“You see the real benefits in the second pre-season, where the players really understood the plans, physical demands and doing that consistently. So, we have that base and it’s important that we get back to where we were as quickly as we can and kick on and enhance all sides of our game,” Buckingham added.
After the three-week long pre-season in Dubai, the Islanders will be part of the Durand Cup, which is the oldest football tournament in Asia. It was first held in 1888 and the 131st edition is set to kick off on 16 August with 20 teams taking part across three states: West Bengal, Assam and Manipur.
“It’s a tournament we are focused on, we’ll be taking our full first team and we’ll use the games to be as successful as we can in that tournament. It’s the oldest tournament in India and we are looking forward to it, especially playing with fans around for the first time in a while. The Cup gives a bit of a chance to try a few things out and then it always gives us the games to prepare for the season.”
While the Durand Cup will open the season in Indian football, the Mumbai City FC coach is keenly awaiting the Indian Super League too, and hopes to play in Mumbai, in front of the team’s home fans.
“I can’t wait to arrive into Mumbai. I came once with New Zealand in 2018 for a competition (Inter-Continental Cup) and that was my only time. I want to meet our fans and see and experience the city. But I am more looking forward to the fans coming back to the stadium and them seeing the kind of football we play,” the coach signed off.