Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham heaped praise on the Indian players for the level of consistency shown throughout the Hero ISL 2021-22. Even though the Islanders missed out on a top-four finish, their historic AFC Champions League (ACL) league campaign earned them plaudits from all corners.

The Mumbai-based side finished second in the group stage, behind Saudi Arabia’s Al-Shabab, who eventually progressed to the next stage. However, two wins over Iraqi side Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya and a draw against UAE’s Al-Jazira helped them showcase the qualities on the biggest stage in Asia.

Backed by a successful preparatory tour in Abu Dhabi, the Mumbai-based side smashed normal conventions and played toe-to-toe with Asian heavyweights. A large chunk of the credit goes to the Indian contingent, for such a strong showing at an elite level.

“(Impressed with) How keen and willing are players to do anything that they can to try and develop. That is the one thing that hit my straightaway. The real hunger and eagerness to better themselves - consistently - that was (notable),” said Des Buckingham, in a podcast with Spotify.

Also Read: An eye for the goal: A look at the top scoring teams in each Hero ISL season

“The real hunger and the drive that they have on a daily basis, on how good that they can be. That is what I’ve seen in a lot of other places, but not as consistently as I’ve seen over a six-month period.”

Buckingham already had a memorable managerial career, having worked across countries like England, Australia and New Zealand. It was a hasty transition from Melbourne City to Mumbai City FC, but the Englishman is enjoying every bit of it.

“I’ve worked with the game for 20 years now, and the players I’ve worked with in Mumbai City FC, can be as good as some of the others I have worked with across the world. So, if similar to what we’ve done in Asia, if there is a similar framework around them to go and showcase what they can do, I think they’ll go on to do very well. So, I think it’s a very exciting time (for Indian football) and in the next five-year years they can go very big,” added the manager.