Former Kerala Blasters manager David James takes a dig at Berbatov after a damaging stint

    The Englishman explained that the Bulgarian striker was not the sort of guy who he would be drawn towards ….

    Former Kerala Blasters player and manager David James took a dig at Dimitar Berbatov with a disguised comment on how he was not an easy player to manage.

    The Bulgarian forward played under the Englishman for the South Indian club during what proved to be the final season of his career. The two rarely shied away from expressing their criticism of each other. While Berbatov questioned James’ coaching abilities, the latter did not have great things to say about the 39-year-old’s professionalism.

    While returning from India, Berbatov had made his his thoughts on James clear with a telling Instagram story with hashtags – #WorstWannaBeCoachEver #worsttacticaladvice, #ChipTheBallToStrikersChestAndWeTakeItFromThere/WTF/WhoPlaysLikeThis .

    In an interview with The Guardian, James hinted at the fact that the forward preferred superstar treatment, something he was not willing to provide.

    The Bulgarian played no part in what could have been the final game of his career – an inconsequential 2-0 defeat to Bengaluru FC. He was unhappy with the manager’s decision and made no attempts at hiding it. However James maintains that he made the right call.

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    “I had a plan of how I was going to do things and equality underpinned everything,” James said. “I didn’t have superstars or gophers in the team. Everybody got treated the same. And that doesn’t always work.”

    “He (Berbatov) wasn’t so happy not to be involved in that last match, which is fine. I had been in his position. It’s not a nice place to be when you think you’ve still got one more game or one more season left in you. We coped. We got him fitter. But it was difficult. Character types, he’s not the sort of guy who I would be drawn towards, although I had a lot of empathy with him.

    “It was an interesting time. Good time in one sense, a lot of learning. But with regards to Dimitar, funnily enough I saw him last year. We played in a game in Singapore. I said hello. He tried to score past me but he didn’t, so I was quite happy with winning that one.”

    The Englishman was also critical of ISL for lack of proper communication regarding the schedule, especially with the mid-season break in December ahead of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. James was sacked midway through the campaign due to a poor run of results with the Blasters and he described this experience as damaging.

    “We were hamstrung by financial situations and a lot of issues,” James said.

     “We didn’t know when it was going to start six weeks before it started,” he says. “Also, India had qualified for the AFC Asian Cup [in January 2019] so they had a five-week break in the middle of the season [from mid-December], which we didn’t know about at the beginning of the season.”

    “You can get damaged. The experience in India was quite damaging because I knew what I set out to do. In a different world, with understanding of what was coming up, I think things would have been set out in a different way.”

    James’ experience in India was not the most memorable but it is all in the past. It must be noted that James took the Blasters to the final of the inaugural season of ISL as a player-manager in 2014.

    He is hopeful of getting into managing a club once again after working as a TV pundit for some time.

    “I will be applying for jobs. I want to be a manager. I want to be back in there and give it a go,” he explained.

    “I love doing punditry work but the pundit doesn’t change anything. And I love change. I love the opportunity of being able to be successful. I can’t do that as a pundit. I might come out with a line that everybody goes: ‘Wow, that’s amazing,’ but it’s not going to change anything. Whereas managing or being involved at any level … there is an opportunity. So, yes, I am hungry again.”

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