What is Trevor Sinclair, ex-England World Cupper, doing with the Indian team in Doha?

Meet Igor Stimac’s new assistant coach, sharpening team’s set-piece plans ahead of Asian Cup finals

Trevor Sinclair, former England World Cupper and now with Indian team in Doha (photo: AIFF)
Trevor Sinclair, former England World Cupper and now with Indian team in Doha (photo: AIFF)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The odds may be stacked against India in the upcoming Asian Cup finals in Doha, but head coach Igor Stimac is leaving no stones unturned in terms of adding tactical nous for playing higher ranked opponents.  

The first practice session of Blue Tigers in Qatar on Sunday, 31 December saw a certain Trevor Sinclair, a 2002 World Cupper for England and distinguished winger in Premier League, getting into the thick of things. Sinclair, now 50 and a specialist in training set-pieces, has been roped in as an assistant coach by the All-India Football Federation (AIFF) at Stimac’s insistence. 

Sinclair, who had been clubmates with Croatian Stimac at West Ham, harped on the need to sharpen the set-piece skills to find their way to the rival goal as well as wrest back control in the game. “We all know how statistically important set-pieces are in any football match. It’s not just for the corners and free kicks, but also simple things like throw-ins that, if worked on, can help you,” a hands-on Sinclair told the AIFF media team. 

 “If you are on the backfoot and you can keep possession from a throw-in, it’s as simple as that. It’s all about those little details and making them work to eventually put the ball into dangerous positions,” said Sinclair, who also plied his trade with Manchester City.  

“I was a forward, a creative player, so I know very well that when you enter the final third, it’s not always about things that are in the coaching books. It’s what you see in the players and work situations to your advantage,” said Sinclair. 

This is the first time India has qualified for back-to-back Asian Cup finals, the previous occasions being 1964, 1984 and 2011 – a timeline which highlights the country’s inability to maintain their stature among Asia’s footballing elite. While they can at best aim for an entry to second round from a tough group with Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria, but Sinclair was optimistic.   

“We are the underdogs, but I like the challenge that comes with that status. I myself have come through from the fourth tier of English football, so I know it’s all about hard work and creating a culture amongst the players so that they can supersede the expectations and create more belief in the group,” he said, adding: “We’ve got to fight for the shirt.” India (now ranked 102) take on 25th ranked Australia in their opener on 12 January. 

The first impressions of the Blue Tigers had been good with Sinclair. “When Igor sent me the videos of the team before coming here, I could see the considerable work that’s gone into this side. It’s a nuance, not quite obvious to all people,” he said. “I was impressed with how Igor has built this team. He’s had the maturity to get the boys to do the basics well and showcase them in the match situations. 

“It’s a set of hardworking, humble, enthusiastic, and talented group of lads. They have a very good relationship with (head coach) Igor (Stimac) and the staff, and they want to try and do their best for the country,” he said. 

 “Of course, we all know about Sunil (Chhetri) and the huge mark he’s made in the world of football. It’s not just what he does on the pitch, but also how he conducts himself off it,” observed Sinclair.  

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