Senior players defend Houghton
Senior Indian players today threw their weight behind national football coach Bob Houghton, saying calls for his ouster following the SAFF Cup debacle are unfair and the Englishman deserves another term after his contract expires in May next year.
Former coach Syed Nayeemuddin had called for Houghton's dismissal for failing to produce any substantial result in two years at the helm of Indian football.
"I was sacked after losing to Oman (in early 2006) in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. Now India failed to defend the SAFF Championship title, Houghton should be sacked now or he should resign. I was sacked for not bringing the results, he should be meted out the same treatment now," Nayeemuddin had told PTI.
But senior player Renedy Singh disagreed with Nayeemuddin and said Houghton was a far better coach than the Dronacharya awardee Indian.
"The Indian team has been doing well in the last two years. We lost only one game in the SAFF Championship though it was in the final. It can happen to any team. You cannot blame the coach or the players for losing one match," he said.
"In my nine years of international career, I think India has not got a better coach than Houghton. We have seen enough of Nayeemuddin, Houghton is a far better coach than him," said the midfielder who began his international career in 1999.
Renedy also supported his captain Baichung Bhutia who had said Houghton should be given a second tenure.
Baichung had said the Englishman is the best coach India has had in four decades.
Another key member of the national team, playmaker Climax Lawrence also brushed aside Nayeemuddin's call for Houghton's head, saying the Englishman's record in his two years at the helm speaks for itself.
"Nayeemuddin was wrong to call for Houghton's sacking. In the last 18 matches we have played under him we lost only thrice, that speaks for itself. We lost to Maldives no doubt but Houghton should not be blamed for that nor the players. It can happen to any team," said the Indian team's 'Midfield General'.
Striker Sunil Chhetri said Nayeemuddin can have his opinion and there was nothing wrong in that, but felt Houghton could not be compared to the former Indian coach.
"Bob is one of the best in Asia, he is a hugely experienced and respected coach so we should not compare him with Nayeemuddin. I think Bob has changed the whole scenario of football in the country," he said.
He said he would want Houghton to continue for another term.
"It is not a question of supporting or not supporting, I pray that Bob continues as coach after his contract expires. We have learnt a lot from him," said Chhetri.
Former national coach Sukhwinder Singh was guarded in his response, though he said the SAFF final loss has "jolted Indian football".
"This is not an area which I should be commenting on. You cannot blame anybody for the loss against Maldives in the SAFF final but no doubt it was not good for Indian football. It has jolted India's pride," he said.
Asked whether Indian football was improving in the last two years, the JCT coach said, "It is difficult to assess, we won the Nehru Cup (in August last year), lost the SAFF title and again I am hoping of a good show in the AFC Challenger Cup in Hyderabad (from July 30)."