The Real Kashmir FC head spoke about his time as a player under the legendary manager, growth of Indian Super League and more.

The 2020-21 I-League season has already begun and one thing that has been evident in the first couple of matchdays is that the race for the title is wide open. Teams like Real Kashmir, RoundGlass Punjab, Gokulam Kerala and so on are regarded as some of the favourites to take home the crown. A few weeks before the start of the season, Khel Now had caught up with David Robertson, the head coach of Real Kashmir. 

Robertson appeared as a special guest on our ‘Beyond The Scores’ podcast, where he gave an insight on his current role with the Snow Leopards, his experiences in the Second Division League and I-League. The Scottish tactician also addressed various topics such as his experience with Sir Alex Ferguson, thoughts on the ISL and the ‘3+1 foreigners’ rule that is all set to be implemented in the league in the upcoming seasons.

Very few people know that David Robertson’s footballing career began at a very young age, having played and also won honours for Aberdeen, his local club. Aberdeen also introduced him to Ferguson, the man who later went on to cast a life-long influence on the 52-year-old.

Listen To: Khel Now’s Beyond The Scores podcast with Ashish Negi as Real Kashmir head coach David Robertson discusses move to India, time in Kashmir, Indian football and more

“Sir Alex Ferguson spotted me as a 13-year-old. When he signed me for Aberdeen, I was still a schoolboy. The most impressive thing about him was that he knew every kid. Every football-playing kid had been observed by him and he knew everything about them,” David Robertson said, before revealing details of his earliest interaction with the legendary Manchester United manager.

“One day I was training after school and he was watching us, of course. Once it got late, we prepared to return to our homes. I was at the bus stop when he stopped by in his flashy Mercedes and said, ‘Come on son, I’ll take you home.’ He did not even ask me where I lived – that’s the level of detail he had on each one of us.

“He was a perfectionist. I have several stories about him, but the one story that stands out happened like this: We were playing this youth team at the U-18 level. Aberdeen’s first-team that was being coached by him had just won the Scottish championship – which was unusual as it is Rangers and Celtic FC who usually take home the trophy. But, that time, Aberdeen won and they did it in Edinburgh. So, they wanted to present the trophy to the first-team in front of their home fans,” he went on.

“Meanwhile, it just so happened that Aberdeen’s youth team had reached the Scottish Youth Club final and that game was going to be played at the Aberdeen stadium. The plan was to present the trophy after the game and we were playing against Celtic.”

“I was about 14 or 15 at that time and our team was 3-0 down at half-time. There were about 15,000 fans watching the game and our first-team was also present, along with Sir Alex. While the team-talk was going on before the second half, the doors of the dressing room suddenly came flying off its hinges and in came Sir Alex. “He gave us an absolutely thorough bashing. He shouted, he swore, but then we were jolted back to our senses and went on to win 5-3 in extra-time,” Robertson revealed.

“Again, after the game, he was the first person to come visit us and congratulate the team. My point is, he is so passionate about the game and I saw it that night at Aberdeen. That was seen later, during his days at Manchester United as well. The team might be trailing by one or two goals – but then by the time the referee blows his final whistle, he would be the winning coach.”

Upon being asked about the ISL, David Robertson said, “I think the ISL has done a good job in such a short time. In the first few years, they landed the likes of Roberto Carlos, Alessandro Del Piero and so on. The US also did something similar earlier – they brought in some star names to popularize the league.”

“But, the seasons are short – both in I-League and ISL. I think there needs to be more games and a longer season. Sometimes, there’s the Super Cup, but other times it’s not there. The Super Cup should also be there consistently and I think it should be played during the course of the season, maybe as home and away matches,” he further added.

“I can understand what they’re doing. It might take time, but surely they’re headed in the right direction. About the ‘3+1’ rule, it’s already there in the I-League but not in the ISL. The decision came as a surprise for us because it gave us very little time to bring in reinforcements,” the 52-year-old shared.

“We had six foreigners last season and suddenly we had only four. It was very surprising and had they wanted to bring this change, they should at least have announced it a few months prior.

“Regardless, it is also a good move for the development of local talented players, but the clubs will probably take some time to adjust. It is very hard to get talented Indian strikers and centre-backs. In the ISL, the same rule will be implemented only in the coming seasons and that is a more apt way of introducing it to the Indian football ecosystem,” David Robertson signed off.

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