The way Mumbai City FC play, that's how I see football: Greg Stewart

Mumbai City FC forward Greg Stewart made headlines last season in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) as he won the Hero of the League with former club Jamshedpur FC, helping them win the League Winners Shield. Stewart was instrumental in helping Jamshedpur FC win their first silverware of the Hero ISL in just his debut season as he contributed 10 goals and 10 assists. 

Although playing in a new team at Mumbai City FC, the Scotsman has extended his red-hot form in the Hero ISL 2022-23 and has flourished under head coach Des Buckingham. The Scottish maestro has eight goal contributions in nine games involving six assists and two goals, and that is just a microcosm of their massive 27-goal haul across nine games, coupled with their unbeaten run - being the only team to achieve this feat so far this season.

Carrying a great amount of experience before coming to the Hero ISL after spending most of his professional career in Scotland, the 32-year-old hasn’t had it easy in terms of the limelight and the exposure he’s been receiving over the years. The former Rangers player worked a full-time job and managed to make time to play part-time football.

"I was working from when I was 18 till 24. I was playing part-time as well. Of course, you have to put in a lot of hours of the day, into working and then going into training," Stewart told ESPN in an interview.

Stewart overcame the obstacles of working five days a week followed by training sessions and then managing his playing time on the weekends in Scottish football. All of this involved him struggling to find adequate rest and spending time with his family.

“I felt like I was always good enough. It was like I was always meant to be a footballer, but I just took a different journey to get there than a lot of players,” he stated.

After growing through and coming out as an improved player in his part-time playing days at Cowdenbeath - a Scottish second-tier team - his consistent performances earned him a call-up to Dundee United. At the age of 25, Stewart signed his first-ever professional football contract, and since then there has been no looking back.

“I always believed in my ability and I was always a hard worker, but sometimes, you need a little bit of luck in every wake of life,” he said. The Mumbai City FC forward further added, “It took me a bit of time to grow into a man. And that's part of the game. When you get a setback, it makes you want to prove these people wrong. It's not always nice, as a young kid. You have to have that determination and drive and the work ethic to prove your doubters wrong." 

The accolades kept coming for Stewart ever since he made the bold decision of sticking to professional football. In his first season as a professional footballer, he was nominated for the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) Scotland Player of the Year. Within no time, he also earned a move to his boyhood and youth club Rangers FC.

“It was pretty special being a part of that. It's something you dream of. (But) that’s in the past. I can think about that when I stop playing,” the forward added.

While his time at Rangers FC was endeared by fans, coaches, and pundits alike, Stewart’s Scottish connection with Owen Coyle was the main reason for his switch to the Hero ISL at Jamshedpur FC ahead of the 2021-22 campaign. Moreover, it is outlandish to have a debut season like Stewart did, winning two major collections in his first season - the Hero of the League as well and the League Winners’ Shield.

His move to former Hero ISL champions Mumbai City FC came as a suprise to many, but the forward mentions how he was impressed by Buckingham’s style of play when he faced them last season. 

“Des (Buckingham) being British kind of helps me, being away from home. It was difficult to play against (Mumbai City FC) because of how they keep the ball, move the ball, and create as many chances as possible. The way Mumbai City FC play, that's how I see football should be played,” he said.

A player capable of comfortably playing in several different positions and yet delivering in each one of them, Stewart has been kind of a game changer for Des Buckingham. Be it his range of passing, dribbling, or his finishing ability; his versatility helps the other forwards in the team - Biping Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Jorge Pereyra Diaz to exploit other pockets of space and execute the attack the Buckingham way.

While the Islanders lead the table and boast of the best attacking side given the numbers this season, the 32-year-old doesn’t want the glitz and glamour getting into his head and has his eyes set for winning all there is to achieve.

“We've not won nothing yet, of course. We need to just keep on focusing on the next game - we know we have a good team here that we know can be successful at the end of the year. We must just keep doing what we've been doing so far," he concluded.

His heroics on the field may definitely not go unnoticed, but Stewart is yet another key in Buckingham’s high-profile attack that can help the Islanders achieved the desired fortunes, come the end of the season.

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