Des Buckingham determined to take Mumbai City FC to new heights

The defending champions Mumbai City FC have a task at hand to guard their title but with a new leader in Des Buckingham while MCFC will look to surmount the pressure that former head coach Sergio Lobera conquered successfully.

Sergio Lobera narrowly missed out on an ISL trophy a couple of times during his FC Goa days. However, the Spanish tactician eventually completed his odyssey last season, after steering Mumbai City FC to their maiden ISL title. His side played fantastic football with high-tempo passing and intelligent off-the-ball movement, while their opponents often found it difficult to cope up with the attacking prowess.

With the team on a high after the success last season and Sergio Lobera taking the exit route, the incoming manager will be under immense pressure. It’s not just the compulsion of replicating, but there’s pressure to improve as well. But Buckingham, despite being aware of it,has taken up the challenge, which reveals a lot about his personality and mindset.

The Englishman began his coaching career at Oxford United FC. He was a youth coach there for 10 years, from 2004 to 2014. Previously, the 36-year-old was part of the youth system and reserve team of Reading FC and Oxford United FC as a player.

In 2015, he moved to New Zealand to become the assistant coach of Wellington Phoenix. A year later, he was made interim manager of the club, and on 1st January 2017, he was appointed to manage the club for the rest of the season.

At 31, Buckingham became the youngest manager in the history of the A-League. The club was at the bottom of the league. He took charge and pulled the side out of the relegation zone to one place off the playoff spot.

In the summer, he returned to England to take up the role of assistant coach of the U-23 side of Premier League club Stoke City FC. In 2018, he came back to New Zealand to lead the U-20 national team.

Under his tutelage, New Zealand’s youth team won the 2018 OFC U-19 Championship and qualified for the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup. In the showpiece event, the team reached the round of 16 stage, which was their best ever performance in the competition. The All Whites lost to Colombia 5-4 on penalties after the scores were level at 1-1 in regulation time.

Buckingham received huge praise for the way his team played. Despite rumors suggesting offers from elsewhere, he decided to continue and signed a fresh contract with the New Zealand U-23 squad. He won the 2019 OFC U-23 Championship, which guaranteed them a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This was the All Whites’ third appearance in the Olympics.

However, due to Covid-19, 2020 Tokyo Olympics got postponed. In September 2020, he joined Melbourne City FC as assistant coach. He was given the responsibility of managing the club on several occasions due to Patrick Krisnorbo’s injury issues.

The club won their maiden title in the A-League that season. Melbourne City FC won the 2020-21 A-League Premiership and the 2021 A-League Championship.

Buckingham might just be 36 years old, but his past achievements and the role he has played in those achievements speaks for themselves. That being said, the Hero ISL is not an easy league, with the matches coming thick and fast, and it gets super competitive. Only time will tell how he and his team delivers.

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