Defending champions Mumbai City FC will have a new coach on the sidelines this season in Des Buckingham. The former Melbourne City FC assistant coach was appointed as Mumbai City’s new new head coach recently.
The Englishman takes over from Sergio Lobera who guided the Islanders to the ISL League Winners’ Shield and the ISL title last season. The Spaniard is set to be given a new role within the City Football Group (CFG) which have around 10 clubs around the world.
So, who is Buckingham? Let us have a look at his journey:
Youth career as a goalkeeper and early start to coaching
Buckingham’s career as a player was short-lived. His youth career began as a goalkeeper with English second division clubs Reading (2000-02) and Oxford United (2002-04). However, he could not turn professional and decided to turn towards coaching.
He acquired a coaching license and began his coaching career at the age of 18 as the coach of Oxford United youth team. He initially trained the club’s under 9s during this period.
His steady progress helped him evolve from coaching the youth to the older players at the Oxford and Cherwell Valley College. Eventually, he returned to Oxford United, marking a steady growth through the ranks in nearly a decade to become the first team coach.
Coaching the likes of Roy Krishna and Sarpreet Singh
Buckingham, however, wanted a new challenge and thus moved to New Zealand as the Development Manager for Waikato & Bay of Plenty Federation in 2013. He was, then, offered a similar role by Capital Football and was later roped in by Wellington Phoenix as their goalkeeping coach in 2015.
His contributon was acknowledged by then Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick offered him the role of a full-time assistant. He was, then, named as the interim coach of the club in the succeeding season after Merrick resigned in 2017. He was, at 31, the youngest manager in A-League history and lifted the club from the bottom of the table, guiding them to a finish just outside the play-off spots.
During his time at Phoenix, he managed the likes of Roy Krishna, Dylan Fox and Sarpreet Singh (who moved to Bayern Munich from Phoenix).
Later in 2017, he returned to England to serve as the assistant coach of Stoke City’s U23 team. He guided the club to a eighth-place finish in Premier League 2’s second division.
He, then, returned to Oceania as the new manager of New Zealand U20 team. It was under his tutelage that the team reached the Round of 16 in the FIFA U20 World Cup in 2019. The young Kiwi side under Buckingham played some slick and scintillating brand of football and instantly won admirers.Interestingly, his New Zealand side also defeated a Norway side which featured Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland. Their run came to an end after an agonising penalty shootout defeat against Colombia.
As a result, Buckingham was elevated to the position of New Zealand’s assistant coach before taking new guard as the coach of New Zealand U23 team.
He led the New Zealand U-23 side to its first-ever gold medal at the 2019 Pacific Games. Later, in the same year, he guided the side to OFC U-23 Championship triumph which helped them to seal a berth for Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
His contract with the team was, however, not extended with the postponement of the Olympic Games due to the pandemic despite leading the team to a 12-game unbeaten run. He was, however, awarded the men’s coach of the year at New Zealand Football Awards 2020.
Influenced by Chris Wilder, Mark Hughes and Brendan Rodgers
Buckingham’s coaching philosphy has been influenced by quite a few prominent managers including former Sheffield United head coach Chris Wilder who was the head coach of Oxford United from 2008 to 2014. Buckingham was part of Wilder’s first team coaching staff at the age of just 29.
He was also influenced by another Oxford manager and former player in Mickey Lewis. However, another name that has played a huge role in shaping his philosophy is current Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers who managed him during his time at Reading’s youth set-up.
He also worked under former Manchester United striker Mark Hughes and Paul Lambert during his time with Stoke City in 2017.
First visit to India in 2018
It was, then, that he joined the A-League club Melbourne City FC as assistant coach after being identified by the City Football Group for his remarkable growth at the start of the 2020-21 season. The club completed the double by winning the league and their first A-League Grand Final. He also managed the first team in the absence of the head coach Patrick Kisnorbo (who fell ill) on three occasions, winning all three matches.
Incidentally, the upcoming stint with Mumbai City will not be his first visit to India as he had previously visited the country in 2018 as the assistant coach of New Zealand in the four-team Intercontinental Cup.
Interestingly, Buckingham is a qualified pilot and holds a Master’s degree in advanced performance football coaching through the University of South Wales. Buckingham’s tryst with the skies started on his 30th birthday when he received a trial flight with an instructor. He was hooked and committed to getting a pilot’s license and did so two years later.
“They took me up in this little aircraft and the guy up there sold me on this package. Over a two-year period, I went through 100 hours of lessons, six theory exams and a flying test. If I had known the work involved I wouldn’t have gone near it because it was substantial,” he told Sky Sports.