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Coppell reveals his motivation to manage in India

4 June 2019

35 years ago to the day, Steve Coppell first put pen to paper for Crystal Palace. What followed was a legendary marriage that stands proudly tall in the club's history. We spoke with the boss in March to find out how he's getting along in India and what life was like in his first years with the Eagles.

Few people in life - and fewer still, in football - earn the praiseworthy moniker 'sir' without, of course, affirmation from the New Years Honours List.

Club News

Steve Coppell became Crystal Palace manager on this day - June 4th - in 1984

4 June 2019

For Steve Coppell, however, Palace fans have taken matters into their own hands, awarding the four-time Eagles manager quasi-knighthood status as a sign of their own affection and gratitude.

'Sir' Steve served Palace on and off between 1984-2000, being voted by supporters as manager for the Eagles' 'Centenary XI' lineup.

In his time with the club, the now 63-year-old signed Ian Wright from non-league Greenwich Borough alongside a whole host of other exceptional talents, taking the Eagles to their first ever FA Cup final and guiding them to their highest league finish in history.

Winding forward two decades, however, and Coppell now spends his time managing in India, currently at the helm of ATK.

Though managing a club in Asia - let alone India - may seem an uncommon venture for a former England international, Coppell is in fact in illustrious company with the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Peter Taylor and Peter Reid all having coached there in recent years.

From other nations, Robbie Keane, Nicolas Anelka and Roberto Carlos have all led Indian sides at one point or another and, according to Coppell, have been part of a growing, ever-improving sphere.

"Stephen Constantine," he explained, "was manager of India. He’s just left the role but he looked after them and took the team from 150th in the world to recently being in the 90s.

"Significant progress has been made. The league I’m in is called the Indian Super League where they have a range of foreign players coming to join and I think that’s done an awful lot to enhance the Indian footballers and has been significant in their progress to near the top 100 in the world.

"One thing you admire about India is that to play for India, you have to have an Indian passport. If they actually took second or third generation footballers like the rest of the world do for their national team they’d be far stronger than they are."

Now into his third year managing in the subcontinent, Coppell initially upped sticks to spend time living in India, exploring the country and culture and challenging himself to an entirely new experience.

SEE ALSO: Geoff Thomas reveals secret behind Wright and Bright partnership

He elaborated, saying: "I did it originally just as an adventure to be absolutely honest. I thought: ‘what chance would I have to travel around India and see India and experience what is a fascinating country?’.

"I’ve done it for three years and this is my third different team. Each year has been a different experience. At the moment I’m working in Kolkata which is the real hotbed of soccer in India. There are two Indian teams who are based in Kolkata, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan and when they play each other there will be 70, 80 or 90,000 watching the game.

"It’s very much a second sport for most of India but it is growing in certain areas and it is significant."

Turning his attention both back to England and back somewhat in time, Coppell reflected on his years spent in SE25. He looked over a different era of football, revealing that his earliest days were some of his toughest.

He said: "I hate to say it but in the first year we had no money, we were just scratching around looking for good players. We weren’t into personalities, we just needed performance: somebody who could go on the pitch and give their all.

"In the first couple of years, we had people who weren’t paid what they were worth because we didn’t have the money to pay them! It was a real balancing act of surviving at that stage and it was only later on that we began to build on the foundations and create a squad which was then later successful and they’re the ones - obviously Wrighty and Brighty, John Salako - the people who’ve gone on to now tell you what to look for when you’re watching football games."

SEE ALSO: John Salako: I thought England call-up was a Richard Shaw prank

Having been forced into retirement at just 28-years-old, already having earned 42 caps for England and 396 appearances for Manchester United, the former winger had little choice but to turn to management if he was going to stay in football.

With Palace being his first stint in the dugouts, however, it was not an easy transition to make.

"I would say my first year here was the hardest year I ever had because it was the blind leading the blind," he said. "I didn’t really know what I was doing. There weren’t the courses that there are now and it was a huge challenge.

"I got by, by the skin of my teeth. We finished that season 7th from bottom and that was the highest we’d been all year, the final weekend of the season. It was a struggle but I learnt more in that first year than I did in all my other years, it was a really steep learning curve and it was difficult at the time but it made me as a manager, certainly."

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