Kolkata : Curtis Fleming, joined Roundglass Punjab FC as their head coach. In an interview with Sportslight Media. Fleming answered some of the questions related to I-league, Indian Super League and English Premier League.
The former Middlesbrough player and coach said, “I started the English football from Middlesbrough and then moved on to Primera Division, I played against many top players during those times. It is a great feeling to coach the team you once played for, next I coached Crystal Palace and Livingston.”
“It is important that a player keeps on playing, even if they haven’t won anything in 15 years, the hunger to play on should be there in every player,” he added when asked about English football as he had been associated with them for so long.
Fleming spent most of his time with Middlesbrough, despite being born in Manchester he was brought up in Dublin. We asked him about what changes he could see in modern football, in contrary to his time when there were top tier team who could be recognised to finish in the Top 4. “Nowadays, money plays an important role. During my time, we did not even have a proper ground. For now there are 6 grounds, practice pitch is there for the players. During those time, nobody thought Everton could buy a player like James Rodrigues from Real Madrid. Nowadays every team has money, they have became professionals. Hence the game has improved not only the EPL but every football league around the world,” Fleming said reminiscing his days.
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“During my time Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal were among the top tier teams and played exceptional football. When I faced players like Ryan Giggs, Thiery Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires in defence it left me very tired when I played for Middlesbrough.”
We went ahead to ask him what made him decide to come to India as a coach to which he replied it was a very easy decision to make. “The owner of Roundglass Punjab FC is a friend of mine, India is such a passionate country when it comes to sport. I always wanted to work in a such passionate place , I was looking forward to work here. It wasn’t a tough decision that had to be made.”
As I-league is lurking around the corners, Fleming was asked about the youngsters in his team and what kind of game play he has in mind with them besides experienced players like Anwar Ali and Danilo Quipapá. He believes that,” It is a mixture of youngsters and experienced team that bring balance in the team. I have few tricks under my sleeve which will be slowly revealed as the I -league will be under way.”
He let his few tricks unknown to the rest as he would gradually let them out as the season progresses. He although admitted that he has many talented youngsters in his team be that in defence, in midfield or in the forward line. ” There are many promising youngsters in the team, together with Anwar Ali and Danilo, they will help strengthen the team,” is what the Irish man had to say.
Indian Super League just started with their seventh edition, with now the likes of East Bengal and Atk Mohun Bagan who joined the ISL from I -league. We enquired if he looks forward to play in ISL in upcoming years to which he said,” The main thing is the preparation. It is important that we are prepared well enough and even have the monetary backing to compete in ISL, otherwise it would become a stint of laughter for. The competition is very high there, although the games started a long gap post covid-19 but it hardly mattered. Now even the clubs like East Bengal and Atk Mohun Bagan have joined ISL.”
He made it clear for the founding year of Roundglass Punjab FC, they are concentrating completely towards I – league.
Joseba Beitia, the Spaniard who won the I-league with Mohun Bagan last season, is playing for Punjab FC this year. He is regarded as a midfield maestro in India, after his midfield exploits with Mohun Bagan last season. Fleming was asked if having players like him in the squad an added advantage. “Joseba Beitia is a fine player, and we are very fortunate that in spite of having offers from many top teams he decided to play for Roundglass Punjab FC. I have watched him play even against Punjab. Players like Beitia and Vikramjit they are winners. They have the champions mentality, they know how to win.”
But being a man who believes in performances more than the history of a player, he is optimistic that the players would perform for him this season,” I am not a believer in history but achievements are important. I am hopeful Beitia will keep on improving and playing wonderfully this season. Having him is of course a boost to the team and the quality.”
Fleming also rated Indian football very highly. He said that, ” It is not believable that from 130 crores Indians, 11 quality players cant be procured. It is an process to identify the talents. There are many talented players that are coming through the leagues. The Indian team has also improved, their ranking is a proof of the same.”
Speaking of Sunil Chettri, he mentioned,”Of course I have seen Sunil Chettri play, Indian football is flourishing now, two very important leagues are being played Indian Super League and I-league. Sunil Chettri can play for any top European club.”
He spoke more about Indian football and the opportunities given to the rising stars as he reflected, “The backbone of Indian football is there, in spite of the country being cricket based. People love this game. The youngsters just needs to be found and motivated and they can reach every height.”
We concluded the session asking about the importance of academy. To this he showed his full support to an academy and its importance towards the success of a club. He told us, “Academy is the most important thing, the academies are places from where players come through. The base of the players must be nurtured, academy is a place where the character of a player is built. Roundglass is working towards a better academy. If the academy is strong, the team will be strong and more and more players will come through.”
Roundglass Punjab FC will start with their season in I-league, along with a new coach and ideologies and even players with lots of experience and also youngsters. Curtis Fleming looks forward to the season and believes in nothing but hard work and zeal to be a successful player.