LAHORE: Graham Roberts, Pakistan football team’s newly appointed consultant believes that an increase in the country’s international fixtures can go a long way in improving its Fifa ranking from the lowly 162.
Roberts, who has signed an initial two-month contract with the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), was unveiled at PFF’s headquarters in Lahore on Thursday.
The 51-year-old former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur star believes that some of the local footballers are more talented than those playing in English football leagues but termed his latest appointment as a challenge.
“I had options in England with two lower-league clubs but this (Pakistan) was more than an ambition for me,” Roberts told reporters at the unveiling ceremony at Fifa House.
Winner of two FA Cups and a Uefa Cup with Spurs, Roberts has had two stints in football coaching with English League clubs Yeovil Town FC and Clyde FC.
“It is a different kind of challenge but I think I can help Pakistan football by bringing them up in the rankings.”
Roberts said it was a ‘welcome surprise’ for him to see the talent of Pakistani footballers but said there is room for improvement, where his job comes into play
“We can guarantee that the team will play good football. The local coaches have done a fantastic job with the boys and I want to prepare the final bits now” Roberts said.
With his initial stint set to be two months long, Roberts is eying the upcoming Asian Games as his first target with the national under-23 football team.
Though bordering on guarded optimism, Roberts also vowed to bring international football teams to the country.
While Roberts arrived in Pakistan barely 48 hours before his unveiling, he had enough time to mingle with the Asian Games squad training in Lahore.
The Englishman singled out better training pitches as the most important change on the road to improvement for Pakistan football.
In a country where there are more cricket fans than the entire population of England, Roberts faces a stiff challenge to work his miracle in the span of 60 days.
Despite having time, conditions and facilities against him, Roberts is confident that his vast experience will help the national team and is hopeful of extending his stay in Pakistan following the Asian Games.
“I hope it to be longer because I do love the place,” Roberts told the media.
Arriving in the country at a time when no international teams are ready to play here, Roberts said he had ‘no security concerns whatsoever.’
In a promising first interaction with Pakistani media, Roberts said he will also try to introduce young Pakistani footballers to English football clubs through internships and other training options.
Roberts’ arrival comes as a much needed for the PFF, as a UK based company is financing his services to Pakistan football.