Stephen Constantine: From Delhi To The Den

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 04 October 2017, 16:59

If you asked the average football fan to name the English manager who has taken charge of the most national teams, the majority would throw out the likes of Roy Hodgson, Terry Venables, or maybe even Don Revie as respectable replies. However, only a few would answer the question correctly: Stephen Constantine.

Constantine has managed five different countries (and counting), plus a host of clubs during what has been a colourful, cultured, and often challenging career in the dugout.

Football's most travelled gaffer has now shared his unique managerial migration across the globe in his autobiography, From Delhi To The Den, in collaboration with Owen Amos.

A Nomadic Manager

In the book’s opening line Constantine states: "Nomadic, that's what people call me," and you soon learn why as Constantine’s appetite for the game of football shows no borders or boundaries; darting across countries and continents, from Chichester to Cyprus, Nepal to North Korea, and Millwall to name just a few.

The roaming gaffer unsurprisingly has his fair share of tales to tell. From being escorted through Kathmandu by police with AK47s, to being decorated by the King in Nepal. He’s witnessed the beheading of goats after goals, fled war-torn Sudan during a job interview, and had 10,000 people below his name at Calcutta airport.

And that’s only half of it!

Awaking The Sleeping Giants

Constantine, who left home at just 16, first ventured solo in the chaotic world of football management in 1994 with Cypriot side Agios Therapon. Since testing himself in the country’s “spicy” fourth tier he’s overseen a quintuple of national teams, coached in England with the likes of Millwall, Bournemouth youth and Chichester College, returned to Cyprus, while he’s now enjoying a second spell in charge of the India national team.

During his first tenure with India (2002-2005) Constantine led his troops through to the Afro Asian Games final, triumphed in the LG Cup in Vietnam (U23s), and oversaw a match against Japan in-front to 90,000k fans. He also joined a small cluster of managers who have experienced managing a game over in North Korea.

The lure of returning to the Blue Tigers for a second-spell proved to be too strong as 10 years later he was back at the helm:

“When Indian football clicks, a football coach will become a national hero. I wanted to be that hero.”

When Constantine returned to India in 2015 they were 174th in the Fifa World Rankings - they have since propelled up the international ladder to as high as 96th, breaking the 100 mark for the first time in their history.

During his second spell Constantine has so far experienced SAFF Cup (2015) and Tri-nation series (2017) glory, and while India may have missed out on making the Second Round of the AFC 2018 World Cup qualification, Constantine’s men are currently enjoying an 11 game unbeaten run - winning 10 - and are en route to qualify for the Asian Cup (2019) for only the second time since 1984.

In ad­dition to managing the senior side, has been involved in the country's’ youth teams, and will take an extremely keen interest in this month’s U17 World Cup finals (6-28 October), which will be the first FIFA tournament to be hosted in India.

Less noted is Constantine’s contributions in terms of the set-up and functioning of the country’s national team - at all levels - having improving the facilities, kit, nutrition, and general welfare of both the players and staff.

A Struggle For Recognition In England

As mentioned, Constantine is currently manager of the world’s most second populated country, India (home to over 1.3billion people), while he’s a hero in many of the countries he’s managed.

The 54-year-old is one of the most qualified coaches around, boasting a CV jam-packed with experience at both international and club level, while he holds the Uefa Pro-Licence and voyages worldwide as a Fifa instructor.

Yet, he’s continually been overlooked for jobs in England - where he’s never held a senior manager’s position.

His frustration and irritation for recognition in his homeland is understandable, watching on both stunned and perplexed as former players of the game frequently waltz into jobs, only for their lack of experience to swiftly become evident, resulting in the sack shortly afterwards.

"Teams recruit the best they know, not the best,” says Constantine, who once lost out on the Millwall job to Steve Claridge, who was subsequently sacked after 36 days.

What Does The Future Hold?

Chairman and owners in the UK open your eyes, instead of employing the same conveyor belt of managers, or going down the former-player/novice-manager route, opt for a gaffer with an abundance of experience - at international and club level - with an appetite to improve and develop his players, plus a burning desire prove himself on these shores!

At the end of From Delhi To The Den Constantine reveals that after years of rejection, he became the rejecter, turning down a Football League job with Port Vale in 2016. “I’m only going to get once chance in England. It has to be right,” he said, and perhaps it was for the best as Bruno Ribeiro’s successor at Vale, Michael Brown, was sent packing last month after registering just six wins in 34 matches.

Constantine’s never hid his hunger to manage in his homeland, and one day we’ll hopefully see the self-confessed proud Englishman in the dugout in Blighty, but for now he’s busy winning plaudits in cricket-mad India, as he bids to make the “sleeping giants” a presence on the international scene.

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