Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham made it clear that his side will need to adapt and evolve in the upcoming season in order for them to replicate the success the club achieved last season.

Mumbai City FC waltzed their way to the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) League Winners' Shield last season, clinching the title after going unbeaten in their opening 18 games - an unprecedented feat in the Hero ISL history. They secured the Shield while playing an attractive and attacking brand of football, netting a record tally of 54 goals during the league phase. When asked if spectators could expect the same from Mumbai City FC as last season, Buckingam mentioned that his side can’t have the same approach.

“We don't want to be the same as last season,” Buckingham stated in a recent media interaction in Mumbai before the squad flew to Thailand for pre-season.

“Last season was very successful for us for many reasons, and we were able to do what we did, but we can't do the same again. We need to recognise what worked well and we don’t want to throw it all out and change everything. We want to build on the success that we had and we want to be as successful as we can. So we will retain 70 or 80 percent of what worked well and we need to adapt and we need to evolve and that’s the beauty of the approach that we’ve taken,” he explained.

Defending the Shield and setting expectations

Having broken multiple records along the way to the League Shield, there will be high expectations from Mumbai City FC going into the new season. The Englishman highlighted the importance of building on their philosophy from last season and getting the best out of his players.

Also Read - Those years as a teacher helped set up the framework for how people learn: Des Buckingham

“Everybody wants the Shield and everybody will say the same thing, but I won’t. Whenever we spoke last year never once did we speak about winning the trophy even once. For me, winning a trophy is the cherry on top of what we ended up seeing – which was the playing style and players being able to showcase what they can do and us providing the platform for players to do the best they can do. And then hoping that we can hold ourselves to the performances internally and making the players aware of what that is and what the levels are and how they can contribute,” Buckingham stated.

With many Hero ISL sides bringing in new signings and strengthening their squad in the ongoing transfer window, Buckingham was aware of the challenges his side could face if they repeat the same things as last season.

“We’ve shown that that can bring the results that we want, and that’s what we had last year. So it’s about just trying to get better on them this year. We have to get better this year, because again, we can’t do the same as what we did last year. Because not only other teams know what we have done, but also they have grown stronger and will come at us in a different way,” he further added.

The Asian challenge

It’s a long season ahead for Mumbai City FC, who are set to participate in the AFC Champions League once again, having previously made their debut appearance in the competition in 2022. The Islanders made history by becoming the first Indian club to win a game at the continental event. In fact, Mumbai City FC finished second in the group after registering two wins and a draw across six games.

“I’m looking forward to it. The draw is not until August 24, so we don’t know who we’re going to face. But what I will say is we know this may be the last time an Indian club gets to go to the AFC Champions League for a period of time. We want to build on what (FC) Goa did the first year, what we did last year, to try and showcase Indian football firstly and secondly, what our players are capable of doing, because we want to be a club that provides a platform for players to move outside of India as well and I see the AFC Champions League as a wonderful shop window for some of these players," stated Buckingam.

“We went and played against arguably three teams that were stronger and had more money than us last time and we came away with three results out of six - we got two wins and a draw. Now if we can repeat that this time through that would be a huge achievement in itself. We will wait for the draw. But what I will say is the club and the players, we are all very excited about going and representing our club, the area and the country again," he further said.