Josh Shepherd, the Englishman who has previously managed in the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division and the Gambian First Division is now the manager of Thimphu City FC. The coach had also previously done some coaching in Spain and Thailand but to coach at an elite level was a no brainer for the coach, who now leads one of Bhutan’s biggest clubs.
Josh Shepherd had previously worked with Thimphu City FC in February of this year during a tournament in Assam so the players know what the manager expects of them and his style of play. The manager takes inspiration from managers like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp and says he prefers a possession-based style of play. “Building from the back, keeping hold of the ball and playing with confidence is what I prefer” said Shepherd. “Direct, long-ball football is the common style of play here in Asia” he added and hopes that possession-based football is taken forward by clubs here in Bhutan.
Shepherd also believes the players here have quality and the quality is getting better but believes that the mentality or the professionalism of the local footballers here can improve. “The quality of the players here is good but there are some issues with professionalism, doing things outside of football here. I have had numerous players tell me they want to play in the I-league but do they have the right mentality? Its questionable” said Shepherd.
Shepherd highlighted and praised national team captain Karma Shedrup as an example for the other footballers in the country. “Karma is a pilot so he cannot always train, but he’s always keeping himself fit, eating healthy so he is ready for games,” said Shepherd.
Shepherd also encourages footballers to remain dedicated outside of football. “It takes dedication and sacrifice to play at the highest levels. We’re not asking too much from the players; just eat right, keep yourself fit and go to the gym: its little things like that that make a huge difference” he added.
Coach Shepherd has implemented a gym regime and fines for his club, something that no other club in the country has done so far, but Shepherd hopes that this becomes a pattern for all clubs to help set standards for the players in the country which hopefully also become standards they take into life.
Josh Shepherd’s target for this season is to win the league title. “I want to win the league, the club want to win the league. Anything else is a failure,” said Shepherd. The club has heavily invested bringing in foreign players, but so have other clubs in the BOB Bhutan Premier League.
On a personal level, Josh Shepherd wants to establish himself as one of the best managers in Asia. “Being 27, I’m not the best coach in the world but I have 40-50 years of coaching left in me and as a coach you have to keep learning,” said Shepherd.
While his focus is currently on winning the league with Thimphu City FC and working to become one of Asia’s best, Josh Shepherd is willing to help other coaches in Bhutan.
“If the Bhutan Football Federation want to set up a coaching course, I would be more than willing to work with them and give some coaching education” said Shepherd. “There are some wonderful coaches here, the coach of Paro FC is probably one of the best in the country” said Shepherd. “Coaches need to keep learning and share their ideas with other coaches. Training needs to have more variation so this is why coaches need to share their ideas because it becomes very difficult to bring something new to training every day when you train every day of the week” he added.
The idea of managing the national side is also something that Shepherd would love with the coach saying, “If they offered me the national team job, I would snap their hands off! It would be a dream to get the national team job.” However, the coach maintains that his chances of being considered for the job rely on his successes with Thimphu City FC. “Maybe if we win the league, they might consider me” said Shepherd.
Having recently claimed a big win against high flying High Quality United on the 17th, Thimphu City currently sit on 6 points from 3 games. Josh Shepherd and Thimphu City FC play the BFF Academy on the 24th of July next at Changlimithang Stadium.