Bengaluru FC head coach Ashley Westwood said that the best part about sealing the Club’s second I-League title in three seasons was the fact that they could collect the trophy from Mohun Bagan, one of the Blues’ fiercest rivals.
“We are going to have real pleasure in going to Mohun Bagan and having them hand over the I-League trophy to us,” he said.
A 2-0 victory at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium over Salgaocar FC on Sunday, crowned Bengaluru as the new Champions of India with the three points giving them an unassailable lead over the chasing pack. Bengaluru have 32 points from 15 games and the side will travel to Siliguri to face Mohun Bagan in the last game on Saturday.
Westwood said that he was pleased with the commitment and consistency shown by his players over the course of a shortened season, one that had only 16 games. “This year was tougher as there were only 16 games and I am happy that we have won it after 15. I believe that we were the most consistent side and while other teams fell away, we just carried on doing what we were doing. We have a bunch of honest lads at this club and everyone, the players and staff, are pulling in the right direction,” he said.
With 23 outfield players available for selection, the Englishman praised the squad depth and said that though his team did not possess individual match-winners, the collective strength of the 11 players on the pitch was enough to get his side over the line. “We have 23 players who are all serious contenders. We are a young squad. We’ve used 11 under-22 players, we have got 10 different goal scorers. Every one of my players is hardworking and wants to play. Individual players can win you a match but they can’t win you the league. Looking at the other teams, I believe we have got the strongest squad,” he said.
Quizzed on the difference between the two I-League triumphs that he has led Bengaluru to, Westwood said that this season was a tad more satisfying. “The standard of football in the first year was nowhere near what it is today. Fitness was really poor across the League back then but now we have teams pushing hard till the last minute. This was more difficult to win but we work hard here, we keep pushing our lads and drive them to do better every day,” he said.
The Gaffer also said that through the work that everyone was putting in at the Club, the overall standard of Indian football was being propelled upwards. “We keep pushing the boundaries up and up. We keep getting stronger. The lads are hungry for more and we encourage that kind of thinking and attitude. We have quite a few boys who have played for the Indian team and a few more who have it in them to play for the country. I believe with all of this, we are doing our bit to raise the level of football in the country,” he said.
More than eleven thousand fans turned up to watch the Blues clinch the League and Westwood paid tribute to their unwavering support and passion. “The fans were simply magnificent. 11 thousand when there’s a cricket match down the road shows you that football can really compete. The fans were in great voice and I am sure the players fed off that. The fans deserve to enjoy this bit of success as much as anyone at the Club,” he said.