The English tactician has found it hard to land a job in his country.
Stephen Constantine – a name which is unknown to most people in England. However, he is one of the most successful Britons with a worldwide resume. From India, Malawi, Sudan, Cyprus, Greece and back to India, Constantine is truly a globetrotter, a shrewd tactician and a man who has mastered the grit and grind style of play.
However, apart from being the assistant coach at Millwall, Stephen Constantine has not managed to land a proper job back home. His journey started when the Nepal FA gave him the national team job on the recommendation of an US-based sports agency.
However, he is currently settled in Brighton, hoping to get a job closer to home. His agent Rob Segal has placed him in vacancies like those at Sunderland, Barnsley, Millwall, Southend, Leyton Orient and Stevenage, but the 58-year-old manager has not even made it to the interview.
The closest he once got was at Gillingham, in 2012, when Constantine had half an hour to put his case across, but he went on chatting with the club’s then chairman Paul Scally for about two hours, mainly discussing tactics, training and technology and ended up hearing that they have appointed Martin Allen.
“I’m pleased they used a few of my ideas the following season when they appointed a sports science coach,” he smiled with a slight shrug speaking to the Daily Mail.
Both Stephen Constantine and his agent are distraught and they don’t know what’s going wrong for the manager, as none of the clubs are even batting an eyelid to Constantine, even for an interview.
Luck In England
“My agent is as frustrated as I am,” said Constantine in his interview to the Daily Mail. “I don’t know why chairmen wouldn’t want to at least find out what I’m like. Graham Potter showed at Swansea and now Brighton, you can transfer success abroad to this country. It’s the same pitch and 22 players after all.”
“I had a cup of coffee recently with a club chairman and he asked how I’d improve his team. You should always look at the academy first, see if you can improve players there, rather than having to spend money.”
“I also named three players from the Conference who could come in and do well. He was surprised I knew about them and I was surprised he was surprised! I’m a modern coach. I have databases with hundreds of players. I watch football of all levels, religiously. I have a black contacts book as big as an encyclopedia.”
“The closest I came to a manager’s job in England was Port Vale (in 2015), but they already had a manager in and I didn’t want to negotiate in those circumstances. When they sacked him and contacted me again, I’d already given my word to the Indian FA I was going back there.”
“Maybe I’m not a big enough name today, I don’t know. I do feel my record is deserving of a chance.”
Experience Around The World
Stephen Constantine has been to 85 countries which also includes the likes of Iran, Sudan and North Korea. He has had troubles in this span of time, but the Englishman always kept at it.
“The passport stamps can be problematic,” he admits. “I changed planes in America a couple of months ago on the way to Belize. The guy at Atlanta airport wanted to know why I’d been to those countries. I had to wait until they googled me to check my story stood up.”
His wife, Lucy has also accompanied him to most places he’s worked in, but even she decided to skip Malawi and Sudan. However, even her travels to Nepal and Sudan were pretty troublesome. In Nepal, she had an armed escort from the Kathmandu airport because of a Maoist revolt. While their visit to Sudan coincided with protests against the country’s then leader being accused of war crimes.
Thoughts On India
Stephen Constantine’s most successful phase has come with India, despite having the pressure of leading a nation with so much population.
“People say cricket is the national game, but football is just as popular in terms of interest and participation, it’s just not the same commercially,” reflects Constantine.
“When we first went, we lived in Goa. My wife thought it was a paradise for the first few weeks, but it became hard because of all the travelling I did. We stayed for three years and we worked out I was away from the house for two of them.”
“There were some ‘only in India’ moments. I remember being upstairs once and heard my wife screaming. I ran down to find the house had been completely invaded by a swarm of frogs.”
“I loved India. When they say something is going to happen, they will make it happen, even if it takes a little longer. The players, young and old, are respectful when you walk into a room. When I went to Millwall in 2005, it was a culture shock!”
“On my first day, I walked in and one of the junior players, asked ‘Who in the **** are you?” Welcome to Millwall! Roy Putt or Putty as he was known gave me a hard time for weeks and he was the kit manager! Every other word was a swear word. I finally got him in a headlock to sort it out and we ended up good mates.”
“I remember an FA Cup tie against Everton. We drew at our place and I took the warm-up at Goodison for the replay. Floodlights, pouring down with rain, 30,000 there. I stood there thinking this is exactly what I’m in football for. That feeling probably never left, which is why I want a manager’s job here. The people at Millwall were great. But, the club was in chaos at that time, different managers, different chairmen, and relegation.”
The former India head coach tried his best to get Michael Chopra his Indian citizenship. The veteran striker was interested to play for the Blue Tigers at that time and Constantine even had a chat with current Prime Minister Narendra Modi before resting the case.
“That didn’t work,” smiled Stephen Constantine. “Michael was keen to play for India and FIFA rules allowed it because of his family background. But, the Indians will only pick citizens and they won’t give out passports unless you’ve lived there.”
England U-17 Football Team
“Steve Cooper (England U-17s manager, now at Swansea) gave me a ring and I advised them best I could. We even put then in the same team hotel as India were staying in Mumbai.”
“Originally, England had planned to go to Bangalore. But, I said the main stadium was owned by the government and they’d find training would be interrupted by 200 athletes running around the track at the same time.”
“I was impressed by the way England’s kids represented the country. It was a sign to me that the culture was changing in England in the academies. Players like Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho were on thousands of pounds a week, but there was no aloofness or arrogance.”
“Steve took the whole squad out to a regular park in Mumbai, where they met the local people and played games with them. It was a fantastic PR exercise for them.”
Stephen Constantine guided the Indian national team to the AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, where his Blue Tigers started with a thumping 4-1 win over Thailand. However, successive defeats against the UAE and Bahrain saw the team narrowly lose out on a knockout spot. He immediately resigned after bowing out of the tournament and feels that his experience away from home would be of some help.
The 57-year-old manager might move back to Cyprus soon, dejected that a worldwide resume is not enough for an Englishman to get a job closer to home. If that’s the case ultimately then we might see Constantine on the road again.