Senior players shield Houghton over Nayemuddin's remarks

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New Delhi, Jul 1 (UNI) National football coach Bob Houghton has received the backing of some of the senior Indian players who have rediculed the Englishman's ouster after the unsuccessful SAFF Cup and said his contract should be renewed next year.

Former coach Syed Nayeemuddin, who was sacked after the loss in the 2006 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, had pointed out that during Houghton's stint, the India team has not produced any substantial result and he, therefore, called for his ouster.

But senior players have thrown their weight behind Houghton and have openly dismissed Nayeemuddin's suggestions saying that he has been a far better coach than the dronacharya awardee Nayeemuddin.

''In the last two years the Indian team has done reasonably well. We lost just only one game in the SAFF Championship but unfortunately it was the final. Any team can go through it and the coach should not be blamed for it neither the players can be held responsible for losing one game,'' Senior player Renedy Singh.

''He has been the best coach so far in the nine years of my international career. Nayeemuddin has been here for quite long and its enough of him. Houghton is a much better coach than Nayeemuddin,'' the Indian mid-fielder added.

Reddy, who began his international career in 1999, supported his captain Bhaichung Bhutia and said Hoghton deserves another chance at the helm of affairs.

Earlier, Bhaichung had said the Englishman is the best coach India has had in four decades.

Climax Lawrence, another important member of the Indian squad, said Nayeemuddin claims are baseless and Houghton's record in the two-years of his service speaks volumes about him.

''Nayeemuddin was wrong to call for Houghton's sacking. In the last 18 matches we have played under him we lost only thrice, that speaks for itself.

''We lost to Maldives no doubt but Houghton should not be blamed for that nor the players. It can happen to any team,'' the mid-fielder said.

Striker Sunil Chhetri said the English coach needs support and added that Nayeemuddin is an individual to have his opinion but the two can not be compared.

''Bob is one of the best in Asia, he is a hugely experienced and respected coach so we should not compare him with Nayeemuddin.

I think Bob has changed the whole scenario of football in the country.

''It is not a question of supporting or not supporting, I pray that Bob continues as coach after his contract expires. We have learnt a lot from him,'' said Chhetri.

UNI RAR PDT CS1828

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