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UEFA Pro License Holder and FIFA Instructor

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By Stephen Constantine, Mar 31 2017 11:30AM

Written by: AIFF-The All India Football Federation on the Khel Now website

Read to know the manager’s mindset and his insights after the team dual away victories over Cambodia and Myanmar. . .

Stephen Constantine is a happy man. The English coach is in his second stint as Indian National team manager and is making it count. Having defeated Cambodia 3-2 in an away friendly, Constantine made it one better with a sweet 1-0 victory in Myanmar in Asian Cup qualifiers, an away win in the country after 64 years.

Constantine has been thoroughly questioned on his choices and selection policy, but when the manager gets the desired results, there’s very little you can do as a critic. Aided by the ever-fighting Sunil Chhetri, Constantine said after the Myanmar game, “Myanmar had several chances to score, but we showed good spirit on the field today. We never gave up mentally and that aided us in our win. We had three to four chances in the match, but we could only take the one in the end. It was a very tight game and boys showed fantastic spirit to earn the win.”

Playing 12 versus 11 is difficult on the football pitch; ask a Galatasaray fan travelling to Fenerbahce. The Indian National team played its last two games in front of crowds to the tune of 70,000 and 20,000 and came out as victors, something which deserves a mention. Constantine laid out his views on the same.

“It reflects the maturity in the team. Although we are a young side, we have been together for more than two years. We know what to expect and because we have introduced so many players in the last two years, they have all have the experience to adjust to the crowd, their hostility, the travel schedule, the hanging around in hotels, airports, buses, etc. Unless you experience you can never adjust or do it. It’s not easy and it takes a particular kind of person to deal with it in a particular way. But unless you experience that, you never know how you are going to deal with it.”

Talking about his second stint, the former Rwanda manager said, “When I took over in my second stint, I had said that there will be will good days and much there will be bad days. We needed time to establish our character and needed to change some of our habits to get the Team to play to a level that suits India.”

Stephen takes a momentary pause and adds, “So far, some of the results have not been pretty while some of the games have been quite good. We know what is expected and we have added a bit of consistency to the game. There is a fierce competition for places in the squad and no stays guaranteed. But the boys want to be there, and because they want to be there, they give all they have and the ones who are doing that are getting the calls.”

The National Team has won its last six games on the trot, three of them away. The manager gives credit to the ‘Team First’ attitude and reflects, “It is not about who dribbled or who headed or who scored or who passed. Football is not just about who is in the spotlight or is in the thick of action. Rather is all about the unit – right from the players to the medical staff to the media officer to the equipment manager. They are all part of this as much are all the people working back in Football House in Delhi. Credit goes to all of them.”

Did the manager have a block about the Myanmar jinx which went back 64 years in history? “64 years is a long time -- a very long time indeed. I was told that Myanmar have always been India’s bogey team but I was never aware of this slice of history. The players were not born, nor was I.” Stephen continues with a smile, “I am happy that we have broken the Myanmar jinx which has plagued over the 64 years. I am also happy that we have got rid of the tag of ‘not being able to win away matches’ which we had for long.”

Stephen rightly suggests that this is one of the most important victories in recent Indian footballing history. He adds, “When you look at the game most people may think it’s not a major issue – Myanmar is not a powerhouse in Asian Football. But when you look at the significance and what it means to Indian football, this is perhaps one of the biggest wins in our recent history. When you look at from inside, it’s bigger than huge. We now need to build on this.”

Has he ever seen his team taking a game lightly and ending on the wrong foot? He names the loss against Guam and adds, “The result against them (Guam) is something which I will not forget for a number of reasons. The complete disrespect which most people showed for Guam affected the team. We were way too confident and casual in our approach and we cannot allow this to happen again. I will not allow myself and players to be complacent again and fall into the trap.”

His substitution to bring on Udanta on the right wing worked wonders as the youngster made a brilliant run to cross for Sunil Chhetri to slot home. Talking about that, Stephen said, “Any coach makes substitution to try and change the game and our substitutions were brilliant on the field today. They really did the work for us.”

The National team will face Lebanon in an International friendly on 07th June and take on Kyrgyz Republic at home after six days. What next in the store, manager? “This win (against Myanmar) does not matter much. We still have to take six points to be able to secure qualification to the final of the AFC Asian Cup 2019,” adds Constantine signing off, ““India can defeat anybody on their day, but the job is still far from done. We have to stay focused and concentrate on the next game.”

Published: Thu Mar 30, 2017 03:31 PM IST

By Stephen Constantine, Feb 2 2017 08:11AM

After a fantastic Christmas and New Year back at home with Lucy and the girls, it is time to get back to work.

A quick look back at 2016 saw our Indian National Team make significant steps forward both in the FIFA rankings and on the pitch. We started the new year ranked 129th our highest position for 10 years, and won 9 from the last 11 games. Of course, there is still much to do and perhaps more importantly than the above is the fact that we made it to the last group stages for the AFC Cup.

So many positives came from last year, and we are moving in the right direction, but we really need to kick on and make sure we are doing the right things both on the domestic front and internationally. The Hero I league is in full flow and will be trying to attend as many games as possible. Over the last two years, we have created competition for all positions and there are no guarantees for anyone. We are I feel in a position where we can qualify from this group and I will do everything in my power to make sure we do. The players the fans and all Indians need to get behind our national team and help us take the nest step we will all benefit one way or another and Indian in the Finals is the ultimate goal.

Last week the AFC Cup draw for the final group stages was made in Abu Dhabi and we came out of the pot in Group A with Kyrgyzstan Myanmar and Macau respectively which on paper I feel gives us a decent chance to make to the finals in the Emirates in 2019. As always, I go into these games knowing that we need to be at our best and of course prepare for some difficult games home and away.

As I start planning for the games this coming year, we have quite a full program and we will need to be very careful in our preparation both on and off the field. It is imperative that we play games and try and keep the team together so that we give ourselves the best possible chance to qualify for the finals. I have already started to plan the national team schedule and look forward to everyone pulling in the same direction.

I have also renewed my contract in India for another 14 months that would take me up to the end of March 2018 when we would be playing our last game away to Kyrgyzstan. Somewhere in between the AFC qualifiers, we also have the U 23 AFC Championship qualifiers and we will need to prepare for this as well as the senior team.

All the best and Jai Hind

By Stephen Constantine, Nov 22 2016 03:32PM

Report by Goal - confirmation to follow

...The former Rwanda coach is expected to sign on the dotted line which shall see him at the helm of the national team until February 2018…

Stephen Constantine has been offered an year’s extension by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Tuesday in a meeting held at the AIFF House, Delhi.

Kushal Das, the AIFF general secretary, met the English coach to discuss the terms and conditions and also listen to the concerns the 54-year-old had.

Stephen Constantine: Indian football now has a plan and that’s a good sign

“We have shared the terms with the coach and now he has to get back to us. It’s a one year contract which will be performance-based. There will be a review meeting held after six months though,” Das informed Goal.

Das also pointed that the target set was to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup which will be held in Dubai. India have already made it into the group stages of the qualifications which are set to begin in March next year.

“The target set is to qualify for the Asian Cup. Stephen (Constantine) understands that but there are a couple of issues on which he will get back to us,” he mentioned.

There has been a suggestion to have an Indian assistant coach for the national team and Das suggested that former India captain Shanmugham Venkatesh could officially fill in that slot.

Stephen Constantine deserves more time

“Lee Johnson’s (India Under-19 and India assistant coach) contract ends in February and he won’t be staying with us. Stephen will look at a few Indian coaches but he could opt for Venkatesh, who serves as the team manager, to double up as an assistant coach,” Das expressed.

According to sources close to Goal, Constantine is expected to sign the extension later this week.

By Stephen Constantine, Oct 14 2016 07:27AM

As we approach the last set of Internationals for the year we are 137 in the FIFA ranking, an increase of 40 places!...from a 175 ranking two years ago I would say that it is a marked improvement. Our last game was September 3rd against Puerto Rico who were 38 places above us in the rankings at the time, an emphatic 4-1 win ended our international obligations for this year.

Our next scheduled game will be late March 2017 in the final group stages of the AFC Cup with the draw being held sometime in January. Hopefully we get a decent draw and can make it to the UAE where the finals will be played in 2019.

Looking back over the last 2 years it has been quite a ride and am really pleased with the way things have turned out. No, pleased doesn’t do it justice I am delighted and very proud of what we have done. I have to thank the AIFF for allowing me to do my thing and helping me achieve the goals we have. A special thank you to our National Team Manager Mrs Shantha Gopinath as well as all the support staff , starting with Venky, Lee Johnson, Danny Deigan, Ramos, Shankar, Gigy, the Doc Ali our masseur , Nilanjan Dutta our Media officer, Sanjay the kit manager and well everyone in logistics and at Football House Great job guys.

Looking at the results in qualifying one could say we didn’t do that well, but coming in our main objective was to make it to the final group stages, we did that. If we look a little deeper at things you will realize that quite a few things have been accomplished,

FIFA Rankings have improved from 175 – 137

Reduced the average age of the team from 30-24 We now have the nucleus of a team for the next 5-6 years

Have won 9 out of our last 11 games…. A first for India

Qualified for the Qualifiers for the first time in 8 years

Won an official AFC / WCQ away from home for the first time in 15 years

Gave International debuts to 30 new players expanding the pool of players

Promoted 3 U19s and 12 U23s players into the senior National Team

10 of those players coming from the AIFF Academy

Introduced the GPS system for the first time to the National Team which has been a huge benefit helping us keep the players fit, healthy, and on the pitch

Won the 2015/16 SAFF Championship beating Afghanistan 2-1 in extra time…………… JAI HIND

You may be wondering what I do in between games, well besides overseeing our Scouting Network which is being Directed by Abhishek Yadav who has done a brilliant job. I feel you appoint people who are going to make you better and he has done that, by setting up an International portal. The idea is young Indians holding a valid Indian passport can send in their footage and can be scouted. We have already had 3 lads train with our World Cup U17 national team as a result. It must also be said that we have introduced 27 young players into the AIFF academy in the last 2 years. I am also constantly watching games in both the domestic leagues here in India and keeping tabs on our current national team players but also seeing if there are any more players that could add value to the team.

I have been a FIFA Instructor since 2000 and working in a National Team environment gives me the opportunity to deliver courses around the world.

I honestly feel so privileged to be able to travel the world and teach coaches how to coach football, it really is such a rush. Being in a position to show other coaches around the world how to coach their players, see things you would never have dreamt of, and meet people from all walks of life. Put this together with my being able to coach at International level living the dream is the only thing I can say.

Generally depending on your availability you may get 1-2 courses in the year, but so far I have been to Mongolia, Ghana, Bhutan and am due to deliver a course in the N Korea in November.

With the Ghanaian Coaches at the National Training Center in Pram Pram
With the Ghanaian Coaches at the National Training Center in Pram Pram

In Ulaanbaatar in Monogolia
In Ulaanbaatar in Monogolia

Discussing the session in Bumthang Bhutan
Discussing the session in Bumthang Bhutan

I am really looking forward to going to the DPR Korea again, I had 3 days there back in 2004 when we played them in an Olympic qualifier with India. This time it will be on official FIFA duty and I will be delivering two separate courses, so hopefully will get to see a little more of the country.

As I write this I am actually getting ready to head home to see my wife and daughters and really am looking forward to getting home. Just to give you a little insight the last time I was in my own home in Cyprus was last April, and the last time I saw my wife and the girls was in the middle of July! So while I am living the dream there is huge sacrifice on both sides of the family and it doesn’t get any easier. This would be a good time to say thanks to the family for putting up with my being away more often than not.

Thanks girls can’t wait to see you all.

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.

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