The 24-year-old spoke on his time at Minerva Punjab, his experience working with Gerald Peyton and more.
Over recent years, Indian football has produced some very good goalkeepers and Arshdeep Singh is one of those who are itching to make a mark in the game. The 24-year-old is the first-choice goalkeeper at Odisha FC this season and has earned plaudits from the experts, media and fans, although the team has had a season to forget. Khel Now caught up with him for an exclusive interview and he spoke with us on various topics, including his journey so far and thoughts on the ongoing season.
Initiation to game
Arshdeep’s father Daljit Singh was a professional footballer himself, who plied his trade as a goalkeeper for the then-NFL side JCT. He believes that the stories of his father’s 12-year stint at the Punjab club which were narrated to him as a small kid, prompted him to pursue football and goalkeeping.
“My father was a goalkeeper for JCT and when I was young he used to tell stories of all the big clubs like Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Mahindra United and from there, I decided to be a goalkeeper,” he described.
Structure of football in Punjab
Punjab has a strong football culture and the prime reason is the presence of good academies in the state. The Chandigarh Football Academy and the Minerva Academy are two of the famous academies in the state. Apart from them, there are quite a few other academies as well, which enhances the skill-set of young players in the region.
Arshdeep gave his opinion on the structure of academies, as he said, “Punjab has so many academies. My father was a head coach of Malpar Academy, which was sponsored by the state government and there are quite a few other academies as well that are sponsored by the government.”
Role of Chandigarh Football Academy & AIFF Elite Academy
Arshdeep learnt the basics of football at the Chandigarh Football Academy and then was groomed further at the AIFF Elite Academy. He described his experience at CFA by saying, “Our coach at the Chandigarh Football Academy was Harjinder Singh, who is very well known in Asia and I learnt a lot there.
“But, the real challenge is when you play for India, you learn a lot. I mean moving to the AIFF academy has helped a lot because we were forced to build up from the back and deal with pressure situations. Going by the recent trend, even in India coaches demand the goalkeepers to play out from the back,” he further explained.
Experience at Minerva Punjab
The Hoshiarpur youngster had his first taste of senior football with the then I-League club Minerva Punjab. He explained his way to the top by adding, “I was playing for my hometown club in the Punjab League and then my brother, who was playing for Minerva spoke about me to Ranjit Bajaj. From thereon, I gave trials and got selected. We went on to win the Second Division I-League and everything changed.”
Goalkeepers’ lives are a bit strange. If they are good enough they become undisputed starters, whereas the other goalkeepers are forced to warm the bench. Unlike outfield players they are not subbed in unless an injury happens to the regular goalkeeper or if he’s sent off.
Arshdeep Singh was questioned about how one keeps themselves motivated, having experienced the same himself during the first season at Odisha FC. “This is the life of footballers. Sometimes you don’t get chances, sometimes you don’t fit in some coaches’ philosophy, but that doesn’t mean you lose your heart and stop the hard work. It’s all about impressing your coaches,” he said
Difference in coaching styles
At Odisha, Arshdeep Singh has played under two coaches and he was asked to differentiate between both of them. “It was (Josep) Gombau sir’s second season with the team last season and before the start of the season, we went to Spain for pre-season and played 4-5 very good games against good sides.
“Then we went to Qatar and trained at Aspire Academy, so we had a very good exposure there. Unfortunately, this season our coaches had visa issues and they arrived just 11 days before the tournament. It was hence very difficult to prepare in such a short time,” he explained.
Thoughts on season so far
The Juggernauts are having a season to forget as they languish at the bottom of the ISL points table. with nine points in 17 games. The young goalkeeper shared his thoughts on the season so far by saying, “This season we suffered due to our own mistakes, individual mistakes and it was nothing to blame the coach.
“We were also unlucky at times, but the way coach (Stuart) Baxter has held the team despite the loss is something that I’m very happy because we all know how good and experienced a coach he is,” the 24-year-old further added.
Working with Gerald Peyton
The interim head coach of Odisha FC, Gerald Peyton worked as a goalkeeping coach at Premier League giants Arsenal for 15 years between 2003 and 2018. He was also part of the ‘Invincibles’ Arsenal team that won the league in the 2003-04 season. Arshdeep Singh asserted that Peyton’s experience has helped him and develop his skill-set.
“Gerald has been really helpful to us. He has tons of experience and if he has worked for 15 years with Arsenal, you can understand how experienced he is. After the games, he talks with our goalkeeping coach Ramos and discusses with us topics like how to improve and so on,” he signed off.