Stephen Constantine

STEPHEN CONSTANTINE 

UEFA Pro License Holder and FIFA Instructor

AIFF

INDIA NATIONAL TEAM HEAD COACH

SClogo50

Welcome to my Blog

Here is where I share my latest news and of course my views on all things football....

By Stephen Constantine, Aug 9 2016 01:18PM

For me it will be very interesting to see some of the world’s top managers in the Premier

League this season and more importantly how the teams will set up under the different

managers and their philosophies. As we enter the final week before 10 months of the ups

and downs of the Premier League lets what manager is where.


Arsenal - Arsene Wenger, Bournemouth - Eddie Howe, Burnley - Sean Dyche, Chelsea -

Antonio Conte, Crystal Palace - Alan Pardew, Everton - Ronald Koeman, Hull City- Vacant

Leicester - Claudio Ranieri, Liverpool - Jurgen Klopp, Man City - Pep Guardiola, Man United

Jose Mourinho, Middlesbrough- Aitor Karanka, Southampton – Claude Puel, Stoke - Mark

Hughes, Sunderland- David Moyes, Swansea - Francesco Guidolin, Tottenham - Mauricio

Pochettino , Watford - Quique Flores, West Brom - Tony Pulis, West Ham - Slaven Bilic.




How many of them will still be there at the end of the season? Only time will tell but the

alarming rate at which managers are sacked these days is well alarming.


So who is going to be this year? Leicester to retain the title!! I am not sure if lightning

strikes twice but who can discount it, Leicester’s famous title win has once again shown why

the Premier League is the most entertaining league in the world . The absolute nonsense

you hear from some people wanting teams to play out of the back, or you they want to see

30 passes before a goal! Its about winning games the end result and really does surprise

me sometimes when you hear TV pundits try and re invent the wheel. Leicester scored more

goals from 5 passes or less than any other team, had the least amount of possession in

their games than any of the top 6 teams and won the League by 10 points and before I

forget spent less money on their squad than any of the top 10 teams!!! so while everyone is

screaming for their respective managers to spend big what they should be thinking about is

did we buy the right player to help us in the right position. Will he fit in the system that the

current manager employs? It will be very interesting to see how certain teams set up, will

Conte use the same system he used in the recent Euros with Italy? Are we going to see

more teams use the 352? Will Leicester’s 442 winning formation be the go to system? All

these questions and we will of course have 10 months to come up with some answers.

For me tactically it really is all about the players and what you are asking them to do in the

respective system, someone once said systems don’t win games players do, but to add to

that I would say what the manager is asking the player to do in that system is more

important than the system itself. For example in a 352 you really need to get the two wing

backs to drop in and act as full backs when you don’t have the ball or do you? For me yes

but perhaps another manager wants’ them to stay high up and try and force the opponents

to stay deep, so you can understand that it is not the system alone that is going to win you

the game. Another issue that some tend to forget is while the new signing coming in from

all over the world and wants more than anyone to do well, aside from the manager that is

who I am sure will want it just as much as the player if not more ! Many of these players

need time to adjust, time to get to understand the furious pace at which the game is played

in England. I remember thinking when I was at Millwall in the Championship there was

absolutely no time to dwell on the ball, having played against several Premier League clubs

the difference there is the first touch , the awareness players have at that level and the

pace at which they play and think. If you have come from a league where the game is not

as fast it takes a few months of getting used to it. Unlike most other leagues around the

world there are no easy games in England. I can tell you from firsthand experience playing

up at a place like Stoke or Hull on a wet windy and bloody freezing cold night midweek is

something you have to experience never mind the game. If all of that is not enough or the

price tag connected to the new player does not affect him then spare a thought for his

family, the wife who perhaps speaks little or no English and the usual family issues we all

face. Sure at that level a lot of things are done for the players and their families but it is still

very difficult at times and all the while you need to be playing and doing well. Don’t get me

wrong I am not saying that they have anything other than a brilliant life am just saying that

the new lads coming in will need a few months to get into the swing of things.


A week away from the first Premier League game Hull City don’t have a manager, and there

are only 3 Englishmen in the top flight. This after Big Sam took on the England job and just

as big Steve Bruce decided to step away from the Hull job. The 3 Englishmen are Eddie

Howe AFC Bournemouth , Alan Pardew Crystal Palace, and Sean Dyche Burnley, none of

them with the so called top teams, and with the greatest respect to all three of them they

will have done very well to keep their respective teams in the Premier League come the end

of May.


As I close I would like to wish Sam Allardyce all the very best in his new job as the England

Manager I am really optimistic he can get the best out of what I see as a very talented

group of players.



By Stephen Constantine, Jul 19 2016 02:04PM

Well what a European Championship we have had, absolutely amazing and although hugely disappointing from an Englishman’s perspective a very good start to the new format of 24 teams. Sure there are some who will say the event has been watered down but there are 55 full members and adding 8 teams has given so much more incentive to all European countries. I hope this will force many countries to focus more on developing their own players, pay more attention to grass roots and improve their coach education. When you see the likes of Wales, Iceland, N Ireland and Slovakia perform as they did I don’t see that things have been watered down. Belgium was back after quite some time and a few top teams didn’t make it notably Holland which for me just adds to the excitement. I would also add that there should be a draw for the last 16 teams not a seeding process I don’t see why we are always trying to get the so called big teams into the last 8 or last 4 let there be a draw in true knockout style.


Watching the Euros one of the things that I noticed was teams were trying to cancel each other out rather than try and go and win the game. We did not really see too many teams go after their opponent and even the so called bigger teams were very cautious in their approach. Even the mighty Germans reverted to a back three to try and match the Italians and although they eventually won it on penalties they could have quite easily lost. Personally I would have loved to see Germany go after the Italians forcing the wing backs to stay deep and in essence make the Italians play a 5-3-2 which is what they do without the ball. But the fear of losing is all too evident and Germany chose to play a 3-4-2-1 . The result both teams more or less cancelled each out and it went to penalties, and we all know what happened there!


The other thing for me as I said has been the work ethic and the discipline of the so called lesser nations. I for one was very happy when I heard UEFA had gone to 24 teams as this would give more chances to all European Nations to qualify for the big events. There were several teams that made their debuts in the new format including Wales, Iceland, Albania, Northern Ireland, and Slovakia and a few other teams that had been absent for some time. I don’t think any team disgraced themselves and really do feel that the addition will make for more competitive games in the qualifiers, now everyone has a chance to make it.


Interesting to see that 3 in the back has resurfaced with Wales and Italy both using the system successfully. The weak point of the 3-5-2 is always going to be down the sides and if you do not have the right players to play the flanks sooner or later you are going to be in trouble. It is a thankless task and one that requires a player to really want to get up and down and know when and where he needs to be with and without the ball. Watching the Italians I thought that both the Italian wing backs Sciglio and Florenzi were great examples of what you need in that position. But their lack of creativity up front and no real playmaker did not allow them to take advantage going forward. On the plus side however and again all depending on the players you have, the 3 central defenders for me need three key things, Intelligence, Speed , and the ability to ping a ball when needed to the wide men. Of course there is a great deal more than that but those 3 in the back should be able to take care of a lone striker. At the end of the day its not about the system it is about the players in the system and of course their instructions as to what to do in the system.


Three games went to penalties and the usual comments of there must be a better way to decide a game came up, but to be honest not sure there is a better way. I heard someone say remove a player form each team once it goes to extra time and do that every 10 minutes !! Penalties are part of the game and given what is at stake these days 30 minutes of open play penalties to decide it for me seem like the right thing.


My one real suggestion would be for the referees to start giving penalties when the shirt exchange takes place in the penalty box every time there is a corner, free kick and in Iceland’s case long throw. If referees start awarding penalties for the nonsense that goes on in those situations sooner rather than later it will stop, we saw so many cases and continuously and yet no action!! I understand no one wants to lose a game to a penalty for that but by giving the penalty it would act as a deterrent and allow the set play to play out.


Did Portugal deserve to win the Euros at the end of the day? Perhaps not but the determination and the work rate was first class and seeing Ronaldo lift the trophy was nice. I am not sure he will be around for the next one, so winning this would have been very special. France for me going into the Final had 3-4 game winners and Portugal 1 or 2, and the French started off quite well. The work rate and the willingness to put their bodies on the line from the entire Portuguese team were very evident. Sanches was immense and Quaresma ably came on to replace Ronaldo but the entire back four were superb.


Congratulations to Portugal


Ronaldo lifts his first and possibly last major Trophy with Portugal



By Stephen Constantine, Jul 6 2016 06:39AM

After almost 18 months into my second stint in India it is Mission Accomplished as far as I am concerned and before I outline things I really need to say a special thank you to all the support staff. Assistant Coach Venkatesh / Team Manager , Goalkeeping Coach Ramos, Sports Science Coach Danny Deigan, Assistant Coach Lee Johnson, Physio Gigy George, Doctor Sreejith Khamal, Kit Manager Sanjay Dhani, Masseur Liquait, Match Analyst Shankar Sigamani, Media Officer Nilanjan Dutta, and last but not least our National Team Coordinator Shantha Gopinath, there are many more people behind the scenes but the above mentioned are the ones that are with me on a daily basis and have been with me since I arrived. Thank You guys really appreciate all the hard work and sacrifices that you all make

with some of the staff after winning the SAFF Championship



Coming into India for the second time was is a huge challenge and while I feel we have achieved a great deal there is still a long way to go before I feel that we are in a position to regularly compete with the likes of Iran, South Korea, Australia and the real big hitters in the region. Eighteen months ago we were in our worst position ever in the FIFA rankings 180 and football and something needed to be done.


The first thing for me was to instill some confidence and game discipline which was severely lacking, to do this though we needed to change our approach and the feeling of comfortably. Creating competition for places was a must and giving opportunities to players who showed the right attitude was a must and in doing so we have given 28 players their International debuts in this period. Some of them have taken the opportunity with two hands and others need a little more time. The stand out names Rowlin Borges, Sandesh Jhingam, Gurpreet Singh, Ghanesh Dhanpal, Bikash Jairu, Sumeet Passi……………and well the list goes on .


Our key objective though was the Asian Cup and our first task was to beat Nepal , not winning that 2 legged affair would have meant no official qualifiers for the next 3 years !! so in eccense we were qualifying for the qualifiers !! and we did so going through 2-0 over the two legs. This was the first time in 8 years that India had qualified for the qualifiers !! The draw was as I expected a tough one Turkmenistan, Iran, Oman, and Guam respectively. As I mentioned the games were very difficult for us and made even harder when in some cases we did not have time to prepare the players. With so many young players getting their debuts it was always going to be that much harder but we needed to change things. I was looking long term and trying to build for the future, and although results didn’t go our we lost 4 of those games by the score of 2-1 I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. We now have a larger squad of players to call upon than ever before , our average age is 24, and there is competition for all places.


A large part of this success has been the Scouting Network that we started when I arrived and we are now seeing the benefits of this with some of the players coming from little known academies, second division teams , state teams and even the army !! Appointing Abhishek Yadav as the Director of Scouting was a very productive move and he has done a wonderful job for all our age groups.



Making history as the first Indian team in 15 years to win a qualifier away 1-0 in Laos.



After beating Laos 7-1 on aggregate we are where we wanted to be in the last stages of the AFC Cup qualifiers which begin in March 2017. I am really proud of the players all of them they have given me everything and while we have had a few results where we can say we could have done more overall they have been good. So looking forward the lads get a well earned break and time to be with their families and recover from what has been a hectic period for them. You need to consider that some of them are playing for 2 separate teams in 2 different leagues then being selected for the National Team as well.


After the break a tour of the West Coast of the United States will begin in mid August and give us much needed exposure to other styles of play with 2 Internationals due to take place and 2 games against US clubs.



Trying to make appoint to our strikers it must have worked we won 2nd leg 6-1 with goals from 5 different players.


Looking back It was a tough 18 months and I want to thank all the Indian supporters who have shown their support and I have had it from every corner of this great country the scenes in Trivandrum after the SAFF Win, the fans in Bangalore at our qualifiers were immense and the many supporters who greet me when I am travelling around the country watching games….






By Stephen Constantine, May 20 2016 08:48AM

Well as expected our efforts to make the final group stages of the AFC CUP are still alive, as we were drawn to face Laos in the June play offs with the first game scheduled to be played in Laos on the 2nd of June. The return leg in India will be played on the 7th of June. As I am always saying there are no easy games for India, and we will have to be very disciplined and ready for two tough games against Laos whose play under Steve Darby has greatly improved. My objective coming into my second stint in India was simple; get India into the final group stages, win the SAFF Championship, and overhaul an aging squad. Although we have had a great many problems too many for me to list here we have in short accomplished almost everything we have set out to do. Of course the two games against Laos are going to be very important and hopefully we can get to the final round. One of our main objectives was and will always be to try and climb the FIFA rankings ladder as this then allows us to go directly into groups. Prior to my arrival it had been 8 long years since India had qualified for any of the AFC / WCQ.


Entering my 16th year as a FIFA instructor I found myself going Mongolia to deliver a FIFA Youth Coaching Course which was taking place in the capitol Ulaanbaatar. The home of Genghis Khan and a country full of history it was somewhere I had always wanted to visit.


The Mongolian Football Federation
The Mongolian Football Federation

The course was over the course of five days from the 10-15 of April and the objective was to help Youth Coaches deliver and understand how we coach and train young players.


The weather was good some days and other days it was freezing with snow falling during one of the sessions. There is really only a period of six months where football can be played due to the climatic conditions.



Standing below the great statue of Genghis Khan
Standing below the great statue of Genghis Khan

Finally after almost 3 months I am heading for a break and to spend some time with my family in Cyprus and the Greek Easter. It has been a long three months and really am looking forward to some quality time at home.





By Stephen Constantine, Jan 12 2016 07:31AM

SAFF CHAMPIONS 2016
SAFF CHAMPIONS 2016

A great win to start off the year winning the SAFF Championship 2015 although we actually won the final game in 2016!! Beating Afghanistan 2-1 in extra time.


I am really am delighted for the players, staff and fans who were amazing this win was particularly special for a number of reasons, I am the only foreign coach to win the SAFF with India, we won all four of our games in the SAFF, the average age of the team was 23, and we won it without several key players. The 45,000 fans were amazing and must give themselves a huge pat on the back as without their support I am not sure if we would have won it.


Looking back in early December I had decided that we would select a mixed group of players that came from all corners of the country and from different levels of the game.Players were chosen from State leagues, Academies, 2nd division, as well some players who were not selected for the ISL. I can’t praise enough the work of the scouts and in particular Abhishek Yadav who I had appointed as National Director of Scouting when I arrived in January last year and he really has taken things forward. My philosophy in this is simple we need eyes and ears everywhere and we should be constantly looking out for talent at all ages, in all competitions and all across the nation, our motto is if it moves scout it ! So obviously I am delighted that we had 2 army lads involved, an 18 year old kid who was a direct result from my attending the AIFF U19 league, and several others that joined the SAFF camp.


I don’t think going into the competition anyone thought we would get out of the group stage let alone win it! On top of the playing issues we also had all sorts of problems from the organizational side of things, the hotels didn’t have enough rooms, the team buses were often late, no training pitches available and well you get the picture. All I will say is, it was a joke and SAFF really need to sort this out once and for all 7 teams in one venue with 2 unplayable training pitches !


Our first game was against Sri Lanka and we really did get off to a flying start winning 2-0 in a game that we really should have won by 4-5 , the Sri Lankan keeper was my man of the match. Overall I was pleased we created so many chances and we were not made to pay for missing most of them!

Our second game with Nepal proved to be a little easier than I had expected, as in the previous 3 games we had played against them we had scored twice, won only the one game and drawing the other two games 0-0. It is hard sometimes getting players to understand that they need to win their individual battles first before the team begins to function as a team. Nepal taking the lead after 3 minutes was the wakeup call we needed and after that it was pretty much one way traffic. We had made a number of changes knowing we would have to lose by 4 goals or something like that not to make the semi final, the lads who came in responded well. Rowllin Borgess , Zuala are but two of these youngsters who made an impression and am looking forward to seeing them develop further in the coming weeks and months ahead. We ended up winning the game 4-1 against Nepal in a game that will be remembered for the two stunning goals by Zuala. While most people will look at the goals for me the pass for the second goal (his header) was absolutely stunning. Rowllin Borgess picked the ball up in midfield took a couple of strides had a quick look up before delivering a pass that took out 5 Nepali defenders. Zuala who had started to make his run inside timed it beautifully and headed it over the keeper for what was the goal of the competition for me.


Afghanistan were always the hot favorites for everyone to win this SAFF tournament as their experience and quality was there for all to see. Holders of the previous SAFF in 2013 where they had beaten India 2-0, plus 15 of the current squad are playing in Europe obviously gave them a huge advantage. They did not however take into consideration the tenacity or the fitness levels of our young players. This brings me to into the why we need more time with the players in our training camps, as what is required in an International game at any level far surpasses what is happening in our domestic game. To give you an example a team in the ISL trained and played a 90 min game over 5 days, all of this work combined did not equal a single International game!! In other words the fitness levels in the ISL do not compare with what we need at the International level so we are at a huge disadvantage when we don’t get the players. I would say that during the course of the game we in fact were the team that had the most opportunities to score. We hit the post, the crossbar and had several clear chances to score first but as always you get punished when you don’t take advantage. Afghanistan in the 69th minute on a break away from the halfway line took the lead and for a moment things looked like they would go Afghanistan’s way. Fortunately for us we were level within 3 minutes and it was India calling the shots , Extra time came and we didn’t change a thing, why should we the 11 that started were doing well we were having lots of the ball and the lads didn’t look tired. It was in the 97th minute when we made our first change. Our second goal came as a result of a mix up in the Afghans defense and Sunil Chhetri punished them this time slotting the ball home with 15 minutes or so of extra time left.


We managed to see the game out and could have scored a few more as the Afghans went all out to get the equalizer. I cannot describe the feeling when on hearing that final whistle I am really proud of the players and of course Happy for everyone at the AIFF. It is a great lift to everyone involved in Indian football and I must say a special thank you to all the coaching and support staff they have been amazing throughout.


In closing I would also like to say a special thank you to all the Indian fans who have supported us through thick and thin !! We had fans travel from all over the country to support us and it means a great deal to me and the players.


So we are THE CHAMPIONS …………JAI HIND


View video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6woYeSKsAc&feature=youtu.be



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