Stuart Baxter: Important to have the right culture around youngsters

Odisha FC have roped in several young players to their squad ahead of the upcoming Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) season and their new head coach Stuart Baxter stressed the importance of having the right culture around youngsters at the club. The 66-year-old comes to the Hero ISL with an abundance of coaching experience across three continents and spoke of the importance of communicating clearly with the several young players that Odisha have signed.

It’s very important to have the right culture around youngsters and the team. It is very important to communicate what is expected of them clearly and in a way they understand. There is no use talking to them in a language that we used with players like me when we were 15 or 16. We must put it in a way they understand,” Baxter told in an exclusive interview.

He went on to add that giving young players a proper understanding of their role in the team can aid their progress irrespective of the number of matches they have played. “I’m not a believer that a young player has to play 300 games before he becomes experienced. If you can give him a role that he understands, you can inspire him and put him in the right frame of mind, then that young player can play with an old head,” Baxter opined.

The Englishman has plenty of experience working with youngsters having begun his career as coach with Swedish club Örebro SK’s youth team. He has also worked with England’s U-19 team in the past and is no stranger when it comes to developing young players. However, Baxter believes that it is important to find the right blend of experience and young blood for the club to succeed.

“All 11 players won’t be youngsters at the same time. We will have foreign players who will obviously lend their experience and create a positive learning culture around those young players. The timing of who plays and who they play against, when to give them more time, when to give them less time, that’s the way you have to manage younger players,” he said.

The 66-year-old head coach also discussed the risk that is associated with blooding young players in the team. “Everything in life is risk and reward. Unnecessary risks and foolish risks we will not take with our youngsters. It’s their careers, our club’s fortunes. What we will do is give them roles that they understand. Put forth strategies that are clear to them and we will ask them within those supporting walls to express themselves. If we manage them properly, we will minimize those risks and we will make sure that the rewards can be substantial,” he said.

The Bhubaneswar-based club has been very proactive in the transfer market, signing several young players like Kamalpreet SinghHendry Antonay, Saurabh Meher, and Thoiba Singh Moirangthem. However, Baxter revealed that his involvement in the signing of youngsters and Indian players has been less compared to that of foreign players.

“The young signings and the Indian based players I have been told about and consulted on. But my input has been rather less than it would be on the foreign players… however, I have spoken to the management about the balance in the squad in terms of physical attributes, technical attributes and the signings that we will make with our foreigners. Hopefully, we will balance the squad even more in terms of the mental side of the game,” he said.

“We want players who can play the role of mentor rather than someone who comes just to look at his bank balance every month and doesn’t really care about the development of Indian football. That will be very important to us because we have a very young squad,” Baxter concluded.

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