The culture in Asia is very respectful. There’s a lot of politeness. Sometimes you can’t have that when you’re building up to a big game or fighting to win one. We made sure our training sessions were intense, so straight away they knew there was no taking it easy. No room for complacency. Gradually, that mentality transferred into our games.
We were more aggressive. We played with more passion, more intensity. We started beating teams that were better than us because we worked together and we worked very hard.
Short-term, I’m sure there were a few players who weren’t happy with how we did things or the demands we put on them. But once they saw the results, that changed.
I managed that India side for three years. But I reached a point when I felt that group of players had given me everything. It felt like the right time to move on to the next challenge.
My wife was keen to return to England, and my two daughters were reaching school age. As a family, we decided it was the right time to head home.
“You can’t change someone’s culture. You can try and change their habits, but not their culture”
It was a bit of a culture shock.
By then I had 15 years of coaching and managing experience, including a year working in England at Bournemouth’s Centre of Excellence. But when I got a job working as a first-team coach with Millwall in 2005, there were things that took some getting used to.
You walk into a room in India and people stand up. They say: “Good morning, sir. How are you?” You walk into Millwall and it’s: “Who’s this guy? What are you doing here?”
“Well, I’m the first-team coach.”
“Oh, really? Good luck, mate.”
In Asia, the position dictates that you command respect, and it’s up to the individual in that position to keep it – or, indeed, lose it. In England, it’s different: you have to earn the players’ respect. They need to see that you can help them to improve. Help them get better results.