Graham Roberts may be far from home in balmy Southampton but the coach of the Nepal team seemed at ease among media vultures at an interaction ahead of the 2011 Saff Championship here on Thursday.
The Englishman is the most high profile coach to feature in the regional tournament that kicks off on Friday. After his exploits with Tottenham Hotspur in the early '80s when he lifted two FA Cups and the '84 UEFA Cup against Anderlecht. He also won the Scottish Premier League and Scottish League Cup with Glasgow Rangers before helping Chelsea return to the top tier of English football in the 1988-89 season."They're all great now, aren't they," Roberts told HT when asked which achievement he ranked highest. Asked about contemporaries he admired, the 52-year-old said: "(Karl-Heinz) Rummenigge, Kenny Dalglish, (Ian) Rush were all great strikers, very technically sound. (Ipswich legend) Terry Butcher was a great defender while I really respect Keith Burkinshaw (Spurs) as a coach."
Roberts arrived in Nepal last June. "I signed a one-year contract in June this year and it's been great. Infrastructure is a problem and the pitches we play on are disastrous. But we still qualified for the AFC Challenge Cup and we went on an Asian tour after that. I've stressed on physical training. It's very English but they're ready for the army now!"
The Lilywhites stalwart also had a short stint in Pakistan in September 2010. "In Nepal, the age-groups are now falling into place with the U-12, U-16 and U-18 sides showing progress. We have to start getting kids into the system by the time they're seven. Also, the league structure needs to improve beyond just six clubs performing."