The 67-year-old tactician spoke in detais about his decision to come to India, his approach to the game and more.
As Odisha FC venture on a new journey in the Indian Super League (ISL) next season, they’ve appointed the right man to steer the ship to success. Stuart Baxter is a deeply associated with the game, having been involved with the sport for almost five decades before making his move to India.
The former South Africa national team head coach had a very interesting introduction to Indian football and Odisha FC when the ISL side approached him. The Englishman spoke about how he was convinced by Odisha to become their new head coach on Khel Now’s Beyond The Scores podcast as he said, “When I was in South Africa, we had just finished playing the African Cup of Nations. We had a good tournament and that was when I decided that it was a good time for me to leave.
“I was almost 100% sure that I will move to China, so in the meantime I returned to Sweden, waiting for negotiations to get completed. Suddenly things became very quiet because of COVID-19, and I found myself stuck in Sweden.
“Eventually I learned about Odisha FC’s interest and we started talking. Somewhere along the way, I decided that it was time for me to start working again. I have never worked in India before, and the project at the club interested me. I would say we enjoyed each other’s company and soon it grew in me that we could stand each other for at least one season. So, I agreed and started talking contract details, and that is how the whole thing began,” Stuart Baxter revealed.
Being completely new to the Indian Football scene, Stuart Baxter will have to rely upon local assistant coaches who have a more clear idea about how things work in the ISL. As a result, he’s appointed a number of domestic coaches including former India national team star Steven Dias to his backroom staff.
Speaking about Dias’ role in the backroom staff, the 67-year-old explained: “A home-based coach working with us is a necessity in any club of any country. Steven Dias is hence an important part of Odisha FC. He has a role to play with Indian players. One of his duties is to act as a bridge between myself and them. They are welcome to approach him for anything, before it gets relayed to me.”
Stuart Baxter also spoke about the role of his assistant coach, Gerald Peyton, with whom he’s worked for a long time. “I met Gerry in Japan when I managed Sanfrecce Hiroshima. He had been taken as a goalkeeper coach for another J-League side. We secured winning the championship on his ground in my first year. Gerry impressed me with the way he came up to our squad and congratulate everybody and I kept in touch with him. When I moved away from Hiroshima, I took Gerry with me as goalkeeper coach to Vissel Kobe. When I moved to Stockholm, I took him as goalkeeper coach with me,” Stuart Baxter quipped.
“After that, I went back to England and Arsene Wenger, a friend of mine, asked me who would you recommend as goalkeeping coach? I recommended Gerry. He was there for 15 years and the last few years was more or less as an assistant coach. Gerry is a fully qualified coach. When I got the opportunity to work in Japan, Gerry asked me what I’m doing and I said I’m going to India! So he wanted to move with me too,” he added.
“Gerry brings with him a wealth of experience including Champions League finals and FA Cup finals. The year of the invincibles with Arsenal, he was with them. As an assistant, he would be great. We will have (Rogerio) Ramos as the goalkeeper coach. As a resource for the goalkeeping department, he’ll be great. Gerry has a very positive attitude and he’ll be the one to encourage the young boys. I’m sure the management of the club are delighted to have brought Gerry as an assistant coach,” Stuart Baxter shared.
The Englishman spoke about his style of gameplay as he went on explaining, “If you ask me about the way my teams play – back at AIK (Swedish club), we broke a record by not conceding a single goal for 12 and a half games. We went on to win the Championship and earned fame as a highly defensive side. At another team, we scored 75 goals in a single season and I was called a manager who loved all-out attacks,” Stuart Baxter recalled.
“Neither is completely true. Neither is completely false either. We have to look at various aspects before identifying a style of play, but I can promise fans that we will not be playing an unattractive brand of football,” he signed off.