Thiruvananthapuram: John Burridge, the veteran English goalkeeper who plied his trade for English and Scottish soccer leagues for over three decades before turning into a sought-after coach, is keen to see an Indian player making an entry into the English Premier League.
Burridge has taken over this month as the goalkeeping coach of Kerala Blasters, which represents the south Indian state in the Indian Soccer League.
“When I coached the Oman football team and got Ali Al Habsi into the EPL, it was a major image boost for the country. It even opened up that country as a well-known tourism destination. It’s time the EPL has an Indian playing in it and a Keralite player in the EPL will boost this state’s tourism like never before”, the 67-year-old Burridge told Gulf News.
Al Habsi — a protégé of Burridge — had been a path-breaker as the first footballer from a Gulf country to carve a niche in EPL — having played for Wigan Athletic, Bolton Wanderers, Brighton & Hove Albion, Reading before signing up for Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal since 2017.
“When an English Premier League match takes place, there are national flags of the players around the ground. There are players from so many nationalities but none from India, which means there is no Indian flag there”, points out Burridge, who dreams of guiding a Kerala goalkeeper into easily the most competitive football league in the world.
“You get in one player in the EPL and it is free international advertisement for the state and everything about the state gets a boost including tourism”, says the goalkeeper who played for as many as 29 clubs including Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Manchester City in a senior career spanning from 1969 to 1997.
The art of goalkeeping, according to ‘Budgie’ as he is nicknamed as, is not a science but more of bravery.
“You can’t coach bravery. Coaches can mould those who have bravery and speed with technique for the role. Dedication is the key, and players with a combination of character and a sense of entertainment are assets to the game”, he added.