Graham: ‘Now defence looks perfect’

By Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: Pakistan football team’s coaching consultant Graham Roberts is confident that the Greenshirts will put up their best in the Asian Games starting from November 12 in Guangzhou, China.

“I am pleased with the players as they are quite talented and hoping for a better China tour,” former English footballer Roberts whose’ services have been hired by the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) through a London-based marketing company for the initial period of two months, told ‘The News’ from Lahore during a telephonic interview.

He was full of praise for his side who are all set to take a giant stride to qualify for the knock-out stage of the Asian Games for the first time in history.

“Most of the players are quick learners. They are improving with the passage of time. Our side has won all four practice games which they played against the local teams. Especially, the result in the last game was very pleasing as our side won 8-0 which shows improvement the players have made,” former Yeovil and Clyde manager, who won six caps for England in the 1980s, said.

However, he admitted that the players need to get Psychologically stronger.

“We are trying to get them motivated and mentally upbeat ahead of the China tour,” Roberts said.

Pakistan have been placed in Group F with Thailand, Oman and Maldives in the Asian Games. Two top teams from each of the six groups and the four best third-placed sides will make it to the round of 16.

He wants his players to go out and play positively in China.

“We would go out on the field with positive mentality to earn victories even against the toughest of opponents. Their is lot of potential among the boys,” he said.

Pakistan had always struggled defensively, getting exposed against the top sides but Graham thinks that the back line is more composed now.

“Now, our defence is very good and looks perfect,” he said. He was full of praise for the prime gloveman of the country Jaffar Khan. Jaffar Khan is an excellent goalie and so is Aamir Gul and I hope he will play a big part in the team’s performance in the coming tour.”

He further said that he is very happy with his association with coach Akhtar Mohiuddin.

“Akhtar is a nice man and I am enjoying his company,” he said.

He admitted that Pakistan have players who are good enough to get a niche in the English clubs. “Yes, there are two or three good boys who could be the part of the English clubs,” Graham said.

He said that Pakistan needs few good pitches as mostly the grounds here are hard and tough. He said that the country also needed a foreign tour ahead of the Asian Games, saying, such exercise is indispensable for picking the weak points of the team.

Commenting on his contract with the PFF, Graham said,” Initially I have signed an eight-week contract with them and after that if the authorities don’t need my services I will pick up my luggage and return home.”