Odisha FC unveil Stuart Baxter as their new head coach

Odisha FC welcomed Stuart Baxter as their new head coach on a two-year contract, the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) club confirmed on Friday. The Englishman was previously the head coach of South Africa as well as Finland, and comes with the experience of managing in Asia having been at the helm of Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Vissel Kobe in the J1 League in Japan.

Speaking on his upcoming challenge in Indian football, Odisha FC's new head coach said, "I'm pleased to say that Odisha FC and I have reached an agreement for the upcoming ISL season. "I'm looking forward to the challenge of Indian football and the opportunity to develop players and coaches in India. I'd like to wish all the supporters, players and staff good health during these testing times." 

"The vision of the Sharma family for the club representing the sporting state of Odisha is an exciting one with development, teamwork and cooperation with our stakeholders serving as cornerstones for the task ahead. Together we will bring joy and success to the region," he added. 

A midfielder during his playing days, Baxter began his footballing career with Preston North End before going on to represent a host of other clubs from England, Scotland, Australia, Sweden and America. As head coach, he began his career with Swedish club Örebro SK’s youth team, while his first role in senior management came with Norway’s Idrettsforeningen Skarp, which was followed by a brief stint with Vitória Setubal in Portugal.

After returning to Sweden from Portugal, Baxter enjoyed a three-year spell with Halmstads BK, guiding them to promotion in his first season with the club. His first experience of coaching a team in Asia was with Sanfrecce Hiroshima, winning the J1 League title (1st stage) with the club. Baxter then moved to another Japanese club, Vissel Kobe before returning to Sweden again to manage AIK. The Englishman went on to win the league championship as coach of AIK and also lifted the Swedish football cup with them. He also managed Helsingborgs IF and won his second Swedish football cup with them before continuing his adventure on the international stage as Finland’s head coach.

After two years with Finland and a couple of years away from coaching, Baxter returned to club management and enjoyed plenty of success, joining South Africa’s Kaizer Chiefs and guiding them to two Premier Soccer League triumphs as well as a domestic cup win.

"I am delighted to welcome Coach Stuart Baxter to Odisha FC! We conducted an extensive global search for a coach that matched our vision for the next phase of OFC. We are excited that Stuart is both motivated and experienced to create a championship club, develop our Indian starlets into national team players, & strengthen our youth academy, in order to have a consistent inflow of talent into OFC," Dr. Anil Sharma, CEO of Odisha FC's parent company GMS said about his club's new head coach.

He added to this, saying, "I am sure the fans and the Odia community will be pleased with our decision and welcome Coach Stuart to Odisha with open arms. I wish him good health and the very best of luck for a highly successful stay at Odisha FC."

With more than 25 years in management across three continents at the club and international level, Baxter brings an abundance of experience into the fold for Odisha. His track record of winning trophies also bodes well for the Bhubaneswar-based club. He will be taking over from Spanish head coach Josep Gombau under whom Odisha finished sixth last season.

Odisha have been busy in the transfer market with the signings of goalkeeper Kamaljit Singh, defenders George D’SouzaKamalpreet SinghHendry Antonay and Saurabh Meher and midfielder Thoiba Singh Moirangthem. The appointment of Baxter comes as another boost for the club as well as another reason for their fans to be optimistic about ahead of the new season.

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