Beans Spilled: Why Stephen Constantine is the wrong answer for Indian Football


Whilst we can debate till the cows come home as to the merits of each philosophy, what we can probably all agree upon is that one must cut their coat according to their cloth. Bob Houghton was successful because at that time most Indian teams played 4-4-2, India had the type of players to suit that system.

Wim Koevermans makes a point during a practice session.Wim Koevermans with Rob Baan had tried to get most coaches and clubs to buy into their 4-3-3 systems, but the National team fortunes declined partly due to players’ inability to grasp the concepts- a consequence of Wim being a very poor man manager! Wim is a good coach educator and could develop younger players, but his laid back approach and his dislike of living in India ultimately was all too evident in his performance as a coach. This lethargy crept into the National team squad too. His reliance on Savio Madeira for recruitment also dissuaded I-League players, as players were constantly selected for reasons other than form or merit. 

Stephen Constantine began with some right steps, he brought in a big broom and rid himself of Savio Madeira and team manager Srinivas Murthy, but bringing in Shanmugan Venkatesh as an Assistant Coach when the former Pune FC player had failed to even pass the AFC C License was the signs of the first of cracks in his self publicized persona.

He tried to rectify this by asking to bring in Lee Johnson, another journeyman English coach. Whilst on paper his 5 years at Crystal Palace & 6 years at Chelsea might sound very impressive, a little research has shown that he was no more than a Community Coach there. No one in their right mind would choose to leave the lovely settings on Cobham in Surrey for irregular pay in Rwanda! Incidentally, Lee Johnson is also just working towards his A License with the Northern Ireland FA, so his appointment in India is more of a favor by Constantine and another layer of insulation rather than the AIFF having an open interview process and hiring the best / most qualified candidates possible.

AIFF undoing the good work?

Whilst it is starting to become clear that he wasn’t the right man for the job, nor was the price tag justified, what is more baffling is WHY the AIFF in their infinite wisdom decide to allow all encompassing powers to such people?

The AIFF already has an expensively laid out Master Plan in LAKSHYA 2022, and have Scott O’Donell hired by FIFA to deliver and execute the long term visions of Indian Youth Development. Whilst this has been a slow and tedious process (with a large proportion of the blame lying squarely at the feet of State Associations), there have been some success stories like the Mizoram football revolution.
Now in walks Stephen Constantine who has had no contact with Indian football for almost a decade, and decides Scott O’Donnel “can’t direct traffic, let alone a Indian Football ”!

The AIFF is falling down the same trap that most English Premier League clubs fall; allowing the Head Coach to oversee aspects of the football organization that don’t concern them. When a new Premier League manager comes in, he normally gets rid of a lot of the staff, brings his own men in for the youth, changes everything, and then in months when he is sacked or moves on, the whole process is repeated. A few like Southampton have followed a more European approach whereby the Club policy is directed by the director of football and others who have a long term goal for the club, and the manager (head coach) focuses on the first team & the results. Having Constantine appoint Johnson and try to change all the systems and processes put in by the previous regime is just one step forward and two steps back. We just did this when Rob Baan took measures to correct the antiquated methods and age rigging that was all too prevalent under Colm Toal era.

Coaches at the Indian Academies like Syed Sabir Pasha have been working hard with the U-19’s to get them to play with 3 up top, and create scoring opportunities by having good movement in the final third; all his players’ skills will now be redundant as we look for right & left wingers who can whip crosses into the box, 2 Centre forwards who can be a menace in the box, and scrappy box to box midfielder who can “ put a shift in” !!

Indian Youth football is finally showing some positive signs, the AIFF boys from the Florida IMG batch are finally breaking into the I-League, with impressive performances from the likes of Joseph Lalfakzuala for Shillong Lajong FC and Uttam Rai at Dempo. The likes of Myron Mendes and Sajid Dhoot will hopefully follow suit. TFA products Vineeth Rai , Germanpreet and Udanta Singh have promising futures, as do the Club home grown talents of Mandar Rao Desai, Romeo Fernandes, Jayesh Rane & Thongkosiam Haokip. Do we need to disrupt all this for the whims of a Coach who’s claim to knowledge of Youth Development points to winning the U-18 Milk Cup in 2003 with players that were aged 20-25!?

His antiquated training methods (2 sessions a day, Army boot camps), lack of a proper analyst, not to mention taking a trip back home during the middle of the I-League points to Coach that isn’t up to the rigors of a modern day National Team Coach.

Tactical Deficiencies

These however are deficiencies which can be rectified, but his lack of tactical understanding cannot. The first training session in Guwahati was all too evident that whilst he had a clear Plan A, he had no Plan B. Most Asian teams that India will come against have play a 4-3-3 or a variation of this (in keeping with trends of the modern game), thus they will play with 3 in Centre Midfield.



This overly simplistic representation shows where his rigid system was always likely to come short! How would 2 Indian CM (shown with O O) be able to cope with the 3 (shown with X X X)? The opponent teams would have no pressure in playing out of the back, as Guam showed because the 2 Indian Centre Mids (Eugene & Sehnaj) were occupied by 2 of Guams Centre Mids, thus leaving their deeper Defensive Centre Mid (DCM) free to come out with the ball and allow both full backs to advance.

Bear in mind that teams who play with 2 DCM and a #10 in the “hole” as an Attacking Centre Mid; his system would leave their most dangerous player free, if he wants his 2 Centre Mids to press high up the field. Pushing the Centre Half up against the #10 would be suicidal, as it will create more holes in the Indian Back 4 than in Swiss cheese! Tucking both midfielders in will be a short-term solution, as their Full Backs can push on thus restoring the numerical advantage (5 v 4). The Diamond in midfield with the Deeper forward (Sunil Chhetri) helping out could be his best solution, thus playing a more 4-4-1-1 ie. a 4-5-1.

Against IRAN this issue will be all the more obvious.


  1. Is this Bengaluru FC coach Ashley Westwood?? Just curious. Some patterns of the write up suggests so.

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