Roberts who?!

By Gauhar Mahmood Azeem
FootballPakistan.Com Lahore Correspondent

Since about a month the appointment of former Tottenham and England defender Graham Roberts as Pakistan Football Team’s ‘Coaching Consultant’ back in mid-October 2010 has made quite a popular read.

Fast forward to November 2010 in wake of our 2010 Asian Games football exit, and the question as to how to define a ‘Coaching Consultant’ is still ambiguous and difficult to understand.

A grim sight sitting silently on the bench while Head Coach Akhtar was calling all the shots is all what we saw of the former UEFA Cup winner during the 3 games long, 1 point strong trip our u-23 team had in Guangzhou, China.

It can be said that something you get for free is always less valued than something that burns your pocket. Same was the case with Roberts. The PFF didn’t have to pay a penny in salary cost to have Roberts with the team during his 8-week long stint as it was covered by UK-based sponsors.

The deal had a clause for a further 2 year extension, but the bad blood between the PFF and Roberts after the latter spoke out upon them seeking Salman Sherida while was still with the team has made it a distinct possibility.

All that said it seems like an opportunity wasted. Why wasn’t a top notch international who had played more than 400 games at the top level utilized properly and benefited from, as it should have been? True that Akhtar from Chaman had been appointed Head Coach before the Roberts episode but the PFF should have pressed for a greater partnership between the two with Roberts holding far greater authority and power than what the pictures suggested.

The strategies employed were Akhtar-esque, the guy calling the substitutions was Akhtar, and the guy pulling his hair out after Pakistan won a penalty in the game against Maldives was Akhtar as well. All this while Roberts was sitting alongside assistant Hassan Baloch warming the bench and giving consultation to the coach.

The strategies employed by the team were not positive and the boys visibly lacked positional discipline and the orders for a passing game. FootballPakistan.Com caught up with Roberts at PFF house in October and asked him if Pakistan he will favour a long ball game for Pakistan, and the answer was a resounding ‘NO!’ The fact that all we played were long balls common thought is he did not have much of a say in the first place.

We (the PFF) used Roberts to put football on the back pages of the Pakistani dailies. Conferences, Photo Shoots, Interviews (unsanctioned ones too), Visits to Football Clubs and what not. Some foreign channels and websites even consider him to be the coach of the Pakistan National Team.

Whilst he IS photogenic, he was misused or in other words used very selectively. His vast knowledge of the game, his energy, his experience and his coaching abilities were not utilized to the proper extent. He could’ve simply provided so much more.

PFF’s last comments on Roberts did say that he will be considered for the job. But reality is that:

1.       We probably can’t afford him.

2.       We don’t really want to keep him.

3.       He probably wouldn’t want to stay on now.

There is no doubt still that it would be excellent for the Pakistani game if he stays on with the right power and under the right capacity. It would be even better if we in Pakistani football utilize the man-power and the resources available to us more appropriately to say the least.

We thank Roberts for taking on the challenge when nobody in the world is brave enough to dare the Pakistan dream!

A genuine good guy with a smile on his face. Pakistan will never forget you Graham. We hope that you remember Pakistan for all the right reasons as well!