Mumbai City FC’s head coach, Des Buckingham, talked about his team’s mentality and the high standards that they hold themselves up to as they look forward to continuing their unbeaten streak in the upcoming fixture of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 match against NorthEast United FC in Guwahati on Friday.

The Englishman also emphasized how the team has stayed true to the work that they are doing behind the scenes and the results are just a manifestation of that. Mumbai City FC are on a seven-match unbeaten streak which put them just a point shy from being the table leaders.

Head Coach Des Buckingham was accompanied by Mumbai City FC’s goalkeeper, Phurba Lachenpa, as they talked to the press ahead of the match with NEUFC.

Here are the excerpts from Buckingham’s press conference: 

You are the only unbeaten remaining side of the season and you are going against a team who hasn’t won this season. What are your thoughts going into the game?

Buckingham: We've watched all the NorthEast United FC’s matches, especially the most recent ones. Even though they haven't yet secured a point till now, I think the score lines have been very close and very tight and it could have gone the other way in the majority of those games. We don't look at the numbers. We're looking at and trying to get better every game and this is an opportunity for us to continue getting better in round eight after seven good rounds and we know it's not going to be any more easier or difficult than the other ones. If we don't pay this attention that it should be paid the same way we have for the previous seven matches, it's gonna be very difficult for us but we've done as much as we can. The main message to our group has been to continue getting better round by round and that's still the same as we come here and that won't change as we go through the season.

You have spent some time here now, have you seen any significant development in terms of the quality of the league, not just in your side but other sides as well?

Buckingham:  This is my 14th month and this will be my 41st game getting in charge over that time. So I think to get through that many games in a short space of time has been hugely pleasing for me, but what it's also done is it has given us the consistency to how we want to work. I think there are only three head coaches that started this season that started last year with the same club and I think what that means is time together, time to understand how we want to play and how we want to do things and when I look across the league, look at Hyderabad FC who has done that with Manolo (Marquez) and Ivan (Vukomanovic) in Kerala, you know, you start to see a bit more consistency about how teams want to play. So, in terms of that side of things, I think that's pleasing to see that there's that continuity, continuity between clubs and I think what you get with that is a better understanding from the players when they go into the fields.  We, in particular, we've got a much clearer way about how we do what we do, but that's only simply come about because of the time we've been able to spend with these players. 

What’s one aspect that you think your side needs to improve on?

Buckingham: We got more than one aspect that we need to work on, you know. It's been pleasing to see the goals we're scoring, it's been pleasing to see the way we're playing but we got a lot of areas which I won't share here with you (laughs). But there's a lot of areas to our game that if we want to be as good as we can be, and be as good as we can be throughout the whole game and throughout the season. We've got a lot more work that we need to do and we are working day in and day out to make sure that we do that and I'm convinced if we continue to play the way we have and continue to hold ourselves to the standards that we certainly do on and off the field. We will put ourselves in good positions come the end of most games in terms of performance, and hopefully, the results will follow us.

Does staying unbeaten add pressure on you and the players? 

Buckingham: Not to me and certainly not to our playing group. It's not something we focus on saying, well, we don't really look at the league right now. It's more of a project around what we started 14 months ago. It's a project for us that finishes, hopefully, in the middle of March of next year. So we don't look here at that side of things. That's nice and nice to have but that doesn't focus or pay any attention to how we approach any big games that we do. It's very much about ourselves in a strong position, which I think we have done so far but that counts for nothing if we don't continue upholding our standards and playing the way we do which hopefully takes us all the way through to obviously to the end of the regular season and we'll see where we are there but we're hoping then sets and push off. 

This season we have the top six that will qualify for the playoffs. Do you think it changes the dynamic of the league?

Buckingham:  Yeah, I think it's a good format and I say that because I've come from the A-League in Australia. That league follows exactly the same format that the ISL is now following and I say that because the league wraps up for us in the regular season, middle of February but those games towards the end of the season were what used to be top four, those teams maybe recognized that they can't make that top four, earlier on than others. You know, that can make a difference to how maybe they perform a play or maybe the mentality as to how they approach certain games and I think what you'll see this year, and you certainly see in the A-league in those teams that because it's now six is still possible, even very late into the season to still make the playoffs and I think what that will do will increase the quality of the games and hopefully, therefore, increase the excitement in the stands for most people watching all the way through to the end of the season. 

What are the characteristics that differentiate you from the other clubs? 

Buckingham: I don’t know if it’s for me to make a comment on what that trait might be, all I can say is we've got a way that we want to play and we've got a way that we want to work the players. The players are very clear on what that is and how they fit within that. I keep talking about consistency,  about how we work. We do have high standards and we hold the players and the staff to that, myself included because if we want to be the best versions or the best team that we can be, we need to do that. It's very easy to say we're playing nice attractive football but there's a lot that goes in behind that which is the work we do out of opposition, the work rate of the players to put themselves in those positions, you know, so it's nice, getting the goals and looking away. To answer your question, I’m not sure what that trait may be. I think that's for others to maybe comment on. For us, it's just being very clear on what we do and how we do it and then trying to do it as best as we can. 

Here are the excerpts from Phurba’s press conference: 

You have been playing very well this season. Any words on your performance and the competition you feel for the starting spot?

Lachenpa: We have a very good playing group and a very good plan as well as who doesn’t come in the match squad 18 because it’s one of the best clubs in India. We have very strong competition but saying that we have competition means we have healthy competition, so everyone is pushing each other and that’s why we can see the result on the field because now as a team we are enjoying our football. The bonding which is in the dressing room is shown in the pitch as well. About the competition, we have a very positive competition, it makes my job easier because I know that I have the support of the goalkeeping staff so that motivates me to do better every day.