The Philippine men’s national football team is taking a new route, as Terry Butcher formally assumed the head-coaching job on Thursday night.
Butcher, a tough defender during his international career for England before embarking on a coaching career that took him to Scotland and Australia, has been tasked to steer the national team that will compete in the AFC Asian Cup for the first time next year.
“I see this as a big challenge,” said Butcher in a video call from Moscow, where he is currently based, covering the World Cup for BBC. “I see a lot of work ahead of us, but it will be fun work. It will be exciting work.”
Butcher acknowledged the efforts of former Azkals coach Thomas Dooley and the players for advancing to the Asian Cup and achieving the country’s highest FIFA ranking.
“I have to say a big thank you to Thomas Dooley for getting the Azkals that far and for improving the team and believing in the team,” he said. “I think with another team, behind the team, these are exciting times for the Philippines.”
Appointed to assist the Englishman, also a football media commentator, is Scott Cooper, an Irish former coach designated as the Azkals’ senior adviser by team manager Dan Palami.
Wanting to strengthen not only the players’ roster but the coaching staff as well, Palami said he believes Butcher and Cooper’s knowledge and experience will come in handy as the Azkals prepare for major tournaments in the next 7 months.
Butcher, who played 77 matches for England over 10 years that was highlighted by 3 World Cup stints, last coached for English League Two side Newport County in 2015. In addition, he served as assistant coach to the Scottish nationals.
After coaching Leicester’s youth team in 2013, Cooper moved to Asia where he has established his reputation, having guided Buriram United to the Thailand league title in his first season and into the knockout phase of AFC Champions League.
Under Cooper, UMT United gained back-to-back promotion from the third division to the top-flight from 2015 to 2017.
Butcher said he wants to lure the Filipinos back to football by making it lighter to watch.
“Let’s make it fun. Let’s make people love watching good football. That’s our aim and our ambition,” he said.
Completing the Azkals’ new “thinkers” are goalkeeping coach Steve Marcells and Chris Greatwich, who assisted Dooley in the match against Tajikistan last March.
According to Butcher, his reign will be “friendly and instructive”, pointing out that he wants players to enjoy representing the country, because it’s “an honor and a privilege and a pleasure.”
At the same time, however, Butcher said he expects the players to live up to expectations.
“But I want to be challenged. The players have to be challenged. I’m not coming there for a holiday and enjoy the weather. There’s a whole country that you’re responsibility for.
“I want to work hard for the team and strive to be the best. There’s no point of going there if you don’t want to be successful.
“With success comes pressure so we can’t rest on our laurels. There’s no reason why we can’t get high as we possibly can,” Butcher said.
Butcher, who visited in Manila in 2016 to watch the AFF Suzuki Cup, said he intends to win with flair.
“We want to win games with a bit of style, with a bit of finesse,” said Butcher.
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