Corrected : Constantine won’t take India to this World Cup

From Delhi To the Den  is a book about a football man who has grafted.

The subtitle is : The Story of Football’s Most Travelled Coach

You may have heard of this guy.

But probably not.

Englishman Stephen Constantine managed India in 2005, and was reappointed in 2015, having managed Nepal, Malawi, Sudan and Rwanda in between.

The development of the Indian Super League since 2013 has improved their players and India are top of their World Cup Qualifying group by three points.

Now 54, Constantine played in the USA for the Pennsylvania Stoners and the New York Freedoms until a serious knee injury ended his playing days at 26.

Having no reputation in the UK, and just one spell as first team coach at Millwall in 2005-6, he is an outsider in his own country, and knows that British chairman often favour the former players of a club, hoping supporters will give their old favourite time to get it right. He also realises that backroom staff usually hire their old mates, who will not threaten their own jobs,

These syndromes are among the reasons English football has been trapped in a mire of mediocrity for so many decades.

But Constantine loves English football and asks: “Which other country supports five national leagues, with more than a hundred full-time teams?”

In 2006, he wasn’t entirely surprised when Gareth Southgate was appointed Middlesbrough boss, despite not having the Pro Licence or any managerial experience.

In May 2008, after leaving as manager of Malawi, he thought he’d cracked it when Woking chairman David Taylor called him in Vietnam, where he was training coaches for FIFA.

Taylor had just sacked his manager Frank Gray and Constantine saw Woking, a full-time Conference team, as a promising fifth tier outfit, a Football League Club in waiting, so he chatted on Skype to the chairman, who asked him to come to England for an interview. Walker called him three times after that, and then, as he travelled from Heathrow to Brighton, Walker phoned and told him the questions they would ask in the interview.

But during two hours at the chairman’s house, with the owner and the director of football also present, Constantine began to have doubts after the first ten minutes.

He later found out there had been 39 applicants and 12 interviews. He’d made the 4-man shortlist, alongside Justin Edinburgh, former Lewes manager Steve King, and ex-Charlton striker Kim Grant, who had never managed before. Grant was appointed but axed after seven games when Woking were second bottom. Grant’s assistant Phil Gilchrist, who had played for Leicester but never managed, took over. But Gilchrist was sacked in April and Woking were relegated.

A London–born Arsenal fan, Constantine was studying for his Pro Licence at the same time as Mark Hughes and Steve McLaren when he unexpectedly met Arsene Wenger and was gobsmacked when Wenger said, “I know all about you. If you’d done in Europe what you’ve done in Asia, you’d be coaching in the Champions League by now.”

Starting with every disadvantage, Constantine has achieved a lot and his eye-opening autobiography has made me think more deeply about the industry of football.

His exotic career is the most unique managerial story I’ve ever encountered.

Kindle or hard copy :

From Shrihari:

Dear Myles,

Thank you for writing about Stephen Constantine.
Didn’t know he wrote a book, it’s now on my to-read list.
Hosting this year’s U-17 World Cup is a good start, but India is a long way from qualifying for the World Cup. We finished bottom of our group, below Guam, with a total of 3 points from 8 games. I would say the 2038 World Cup is a realistic target.
I find ANR is more enjoyable now when it isn’t about Arsenal. I’m guessing you agree.
Warm regards, Shrihari
Myles apologises:
Another own-goal by the old blogger.
It seems I was radically misinformed.
Should have checked.
Appears that the book is better than the team right now.
But the team may not take another 20 years to qualify.