Pakistan has potential to become a force to reckon with: Graham

Lahore, 22 October: “I am currently looking at the Under-23 players and there are some really good, talented boys there. I think the main reason they are ranked at 162 is because they have not played many games. Pakistan’s ranking will go up to about 125 within a year if they play more games because that is where you get the rankings from. If we do well in international matches, the rankings will improve automatically. Once the ranking improves, people will take notice and want to play for Pakistan, which will make a big difference,” this is stated by Pakistan U23 team consultant Graham Roberts during the practise match at Lahore’s Model Town Football Academy Ground that saw Pakistan overcoming PEL 1-0 through Saddam Hussain’s 81st minute goal.

It was second match for Pakistan team who defeated Lafore 4-0 at Punjab Stadium last Sunday, with scorers being Kalim Ullah, twice in 11th, 79th min,ably supported by goals from Rizwan Asif 47 min and Fraaz Ahmed 69 min.

Known as hard-as-nails Tottenham Hotspur defender who lifted the 1984 UEFA Cup as captain after scoring a dramatic late goal against Belgium’s Anderlecht at London’s White Hart Lane, Graham Roberts will be accompanying the Pakistan Under-23 football team as a consultant during the 16th Asian Games Football Tournament slated to be held in China from 7-26 November 2010. Southampton-born Roberts had an impressive career as a player, representing clubs such as Tottenham and Rangers, as well as earning full England honours. The 51-year-old former Yeovil Town FC (Somerset, England) and Clyde FC (Cumbernauld, Scotland) boss has accepted the post after signing an initial two-months deal for a consultancy role on 14 October 2010 in the presence of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF)’s President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat.

Graham will be sponsored for two-months stint. If all goes well with him and us, we can negotiate a long term contract with him to help us as a coach. While Pakistan is renowned for its prowess in cricket, hockey and squash, PFF Marketing Cell Head Naveed Haider, TouchSky Sports and sponsors Spedition Services Ltd (SSL) and TKC Restaurant want to give Pakistan another sport to celebrate worldwide, ” added PFF’s Secretary General Lt.Col ® Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi who also watched the match aongwith Director Operation Wng Cmdr ® Pervaiz Saeed Mir, MTFA Chief Mian Rizwan Ali.

Graham has pledged to help the nation and believed that the country has the potential to become a force to reckon with in the near future. “The training is fine at the moment. What we have to do is get them into a system. When we play the likes of Thailand and Oman in Guangzhou we know it is going to be difficult but we go there with determination to win and the belief that we can beat them. This country has talented young boys. I never expected it to be so good here. All they need is to play matches. You only get better by playing games and we want them to play more. We want to get the structure right from the bottom and then build bridges. And although I have a very short time here to share my experience, I’m sure things will improve, added Graham who also won the 1981 and 1982 FA Cup – the 1981 final saw Manchester City’s Tommy Hutchison scoring at both ends to send the game into replay during which the uncompromising defender famously lost three teeth after a clash with teammate Chris Hughton but remained on the pitch, defying doctor’s orders to do so, and he went on to help his team to a 3-2 victory in the replay (it was his tackle and run that eventually led to memorable Ricky Villa’s winner.

Despite having time, conditions and facilities against him, Roberts is confident that his gigantic experience will help the team and is hopeful of extending his stay in Pakistan following the quadrennial show.”Since I am here for eight week so my only target is to see Pakistan winning Asian Games. In case of extension, my all out efforts will be to see Pakistan winning SAFF Championship 2011 and AFC Challenge Cup 2012 in order to earn ticket of 2015 Asian Cup. My concentration will also be focused hard on those Youth coaches working for AFC AID-27 program and PFF Youth Development Scheme,” concluded Graham.