This exclusive interview was published in the June issue of Sports Tribune magazine
Former Arsenal trainee Jamie Day took the responsibility of national football team head coach on June, 2018. Before his arrival, Bangladesh played only one international match in 17 months, and in the last one year, the national team played 10 international matches along with its Olympic team’s historic qualification in the Asian Games knockout stages. Dhaka Tribune interviewed the English coach following his one year in charge on June 13, 2019.
It’s been hectic one year with Bangladesh football. How did it go?
It’s been a very exciting year. I’m pleased with how we have improved in 12 months. We got some fantastic achievements during this year. We made history at the Asian Games, we played well in the Saff Championship but obviously disappointed to be missing out from the semifinals. We reached the semifinal of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup and now we qualify for the World Cup qualifiers. From my point of view, the boys have been brilliant. They did everything we asked from them. They made changes to their diets and training schedules which have helped them and we saw it in their performances. So it’s been a good year, really enjoyed it. We want to continue this progress now.
What are the changes you brought in the players’ diet and fitness?
We just changed little things, we took out the curries and the dals and the stuffs like that We checked out the foods that have fat, replaced them with pastas, we brought on more lighter foods that gave them energy and right diet .They had lots of foods before and now we cut it down. They stuck to that. In fairness, they have been in the gym now for more times, their physique is now lot stronger, that’s because of their hard work. I’m really pleased with them because it’s not easy to pick changes and get results.
What were the hurdles you face bringing those changes?
It was easy for me because I told them if you don’t do this you don’t play. They were not used to go to gym all the time on daily basis, they were not used to take the correct meals three times a day. They got the benefits after making those changes. Credits to them, they now know what to do to improve further.
Where do you think Bangladesh improved the most in the last one year?
It’s fitness. Before I took the job people were saying Bangladesh passed out fit. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. In those games we have been involved with I think we were one of the fittest teams throughout the year. We look stronger now. I think we have a group of players who play for each other and play for Bangladesh. Bangladesh is not an easy game anymore. When teams face Bangladesh they know Bangladesh are a tough team.
Don’t you think Bangladesh still lack creativity in the midfield along with inability in scoring goals?
If you look at the other nights (against Laos at home) we have four-five good chances. Had we won the game 4-0 that would be the right result for me. Good thing is we are creating chances. We always had the issue of not taking the chances which has been a case for 10-20 years, that’s not gonna change soon. All we need to do is to work on it. As long as we are creating chances it’s positive. We had ten national games and we won five of them. We want to keep that going. I’m pleased how we have done well in creating chances, we just need to take them little bit better.
Jamal Bhuiyan who was involved in most of the matches during Bangladesh’s 2018 WC qualifying admitted that the draw is comparatively easier than last time around and agreed with the coach Jamie Day that his side have a golden chance to cause an upset.https://t.co/EYuF03IsR9#WC— Dhaka Tribune Sports (@Sport_DT) July 17, 2019
What do you think of Bangladesh football’s current standard in world football?
We don’t get carried away. If you look at Laos, Bhutan and similar teams around us, I think we are more than capable of competing. The next stage is when we play against Singapore, Malaysia and when we play them we try to bridge the gap. For me over the next year it would be interesting to see how we do against teams that are in that ranked area and little bit higher than us.
In the next one year there would be tougher fixtures against all the higher ranked sides in the World Cup qualifiers. Where do you want to see Bangladesh in Fifa ranking in one year?
Unfortunately the games are going to be tougher in the group stages. Ranking would be effective by that. There will be tougher games and it would also be tougher to win games. But I think we made slight improvement now after the Laos games. That’s positive. We just have to do our best in the group stages. We know we are gonna face hard teams but we could use the experiences which could benefit us.
What do you expect if Bangladesh get the teams like Australia, Japan in the draw?
When we face Japan, Australia or Korea, these teams have top international football players that are miles ahead of where Bangladesh is in terms of ability and finances and on and off the pitch. For us, it’s competing on the pitch, it would be fantastic experience. The players will be benefitted from it and hopefully they can use the experience two or three years down the lane and gain more knowledge. From coaching points of view, it’s good for me to go against top class coaches and to see how they do things. It’s gonna be tough but I’m really looking to it.
Based on your interview on the Guardian where you talked about some hurdles you faced, like the grass not being cut in time, taking the uber for reaching home. Why these still exist in Bangladesh football when we are going to face Australia or Japan who are miles ahead?
The problem we got, probably, finances plays a part in lot of things in life. In football you need money to be able to keep improving and obviously we never set them out. May be we need to change the structure of football in Bangladesh as well. Most clubs run out of money, they don’t have academy system, don’t have great facilities of training. It’s not short term thing, it’s long term plan. We need to change the mentality. We need to give the players the right diet, right training facilities, right gym, right travels, we and the club need to look after them. I understand it costs a lots of money but the clubs need to have U14, U16, U18 teams who could push into the first team and then into the national team. It was not done in the past and I don’t know if it can be done in future but if we do want to catch the rest of the nation we need to make lot of changes and do it as quickly as we can. If we can’t do it we are always gonna struck where we are now.
What are you thinking about our channels for our national team. We don’t have proper academy. Are you looking at the age level teams, are we planning anything to do with it?
The academy is in place now which is a fantastic start. I hope what we have set in the Fortis, training facilities nice, two age-group teams, we have got four English coaches there to help. That’s a good base to start from. The boys can do training under good coaches. We are hoping the clubs look on it and do it in the club system as well. Potentially in the next 3-4 years we have good young players coming through. My job next year is to keep guiding them and coaching them. I’m positive now. We have good bunch of players and we need to keep progressing.
There are more young players in the team than the experienced ones comparing to three-four years ago. How can we get the best out of these young players for the senior side?
The young players have done fantastic in Asian Games and in Bahrain. But they also need experiences. All the national team players need to play for their club teams in the right position on regular basis. That’s how they gonna improve and get experience. Some young players don’t play in the first team which is a shame that hinders their progress. They need to play every week so it becomes easier for me to pick them.
Bangladesh is placed in the same group (E) as India, Afghanistan, Oman and Qatar during the draw for the second round of the AFC preliminary competition and qualifiers for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.https://t.co/V2Lo9T8K4G#AFC #FIFAWorldCup #AFCAsianCup— Dhaka Tribune Sports (@Sport_DT) July 17, 2019
Scoring ability of the forwards still remains a problem for many years now. How are you planning to reduce the problem?
We are just trying to give them as much confidence as possible. We are working in training on them. Unfortunately, some of the boys, not all of them, they don’t play in attacking positions for their club, so they don’t get into goal scoring position enough. If you are forwards and you play up front, you are gonna get chances every week. When you are forward and you play as right-back, your job is now different. Like I said I want to see my boys play in the right position. Also for the players to do, they need to do extra in training, keep working on it and hopefully they can improve scoring ability.
Where do you want to see you as coach in the next 10 years?
I like international football, so, it would be nice to take Bangladesh as high as possible, take them to ranking of 150-160 and continue that journey. But I also want to get back to club football, having the players day to day basis. For long term, I want to manage a professional club in Asia or back in Europe I don’t know. But for now, I want to do well in World Cup qualifiers.
Which job is more challenging, coaching a club or country?
Both have their changing moments. Obviously with the national team I want to play a bit more. I enjoyed a lot with national team, going over to countries, play other countries, obviously different experience with different players. With the club teams, the changes are more on daily basis, you have to play more games, there are probably more issues you have to deal with which I don’t have to do with national team because I’m not involved with the players all the time. There are ups and downs in both and I enjoy them both. For me as international manager to take part in the World Cup group stages is every manager’s dream. I’m really excited and looking forward to the challenge.
You played against Ronaldinho at youth level, how was the experience?
It was long time ago, fantastic experience to play for your nation, to play for England. Playing at Wembley against Brazil was something I never forget. It was a great day. We won the game. I really enjoyed it.
Share some experience from your times at Arsenal?
I had great time at Arsenal. It was great experience, fantastic facilities, players and training. Good to work with the coaches, Learned a lot from them. I really enjoyed my time there. It was just when I was there, there was some fantastic players like Viera, Pires, Overmars, Ljungberg and you never gonna get a place in the first team. There were so many World class players, so, any youngster at that time it was tough to break through, but it was fantastic experience.
You are also an Arsenal fan?
Yeah, I support Arsenal. I still watch their results and watch how they get on because obviously that’s my team. But I don’t cry when they lose any more like I used to. I want them to win but when they lose, they lose.
Do you follow cricket?
Yes, England is doing well (in World Cup). England are playing at home, they need to take home advantage. They never won it, that’s the thing. Hopefully we can do better this time. We know the pitches, we know the weather. We have everything in our favour to do well. Hopefully Bangladesh can qualify as well.
Do you watch Bangladesh cricket?
Sometimes. I went to stadium to watch Twenty20 games in Bangladesh. I watched 3-4 games, domestic ones. I want to watch Bangladesh games at the World Cup when I get back home. I don’t know if the tickets were sold out but I want to watch England and Bangladesh games because the atmosphere in cricket is fantastic.