ISL 2017: The Big Interview with Bobby Mimms

Following from our interview with Eelco Schattorie, we have been inundated with requests from coaches and players alike from the ISL wanting to get their story out in the open. I jest of course, maybe we will get to that stage one day in the future, after all, if you aim for the moon and land on the stars, it’s still a great achievement. Anyway, that’s enough of my philosophical rubbish for one day, let’s move on to why we’re all here.

I was granted the privilege of interviewing Jamshedpur goalkeeping coach Bobby Mimms the other day and we talked about a whole host of things ranging from emergency loans for Danish goalkeepers to knowing Wolves had the play-off final in the bag before a ball was kicked. I could have spoken to Bobby for hours on end about his playing career as well, but I thought it best just to go from the coaching side of things; so here is a list of the clubs (and one nation) he’s been a goalkeeping coaching for:

  • Wolves
  • Blackburn
  • Oldham
  • Bahrain
  • West Ham
  • Bolton
  • Hull
  • Jamshedpur

It was before the ‘Men of Steel’ played Delhi Dynamos, so if things don’t quite make sense, that is why! To begin with, I congratulated him on the three points against Kerala and then got down to business with the important stuff… Is it pronounced Subrata Pal or Paul because I keep seeing different ways?

“It’s Subrata Paul, when I first met him he told me to call him Paul but I thought it was weird calling him by his surname, so I call him Subrata. He’s very good to work with and has a rather European style about him and with him in goal, we always feel like we can keep a clean sheet and he frees up a space for another foreigner in the team.”

Paul, it is. I stuck with the defence topic I got asking about the pairing of Bikey and Tiri which has been nothing short of outstanding this season:

“We’ve got three senior centre-backs; Bikey, Tiri and Anas, who is the Indian International. He’s had injuries and I think he’s (Anas) only played two games for us due to injuries and his father passing away. Partnership has been forced a little bit but seems to have worked! Tiri has done really well, the partnership has done well and Bikey speaks Spanish and lives in Spain so they can talk properly to each other so its developed well. Bikey is the senior one of the two but Tiri is learning bits and pieces from him and it’s coming along quite nicely.”

It was a toss-up between asking a stupid question relating to Bikey commuting from Spain daily or a sensible one regarding his age. I went with the latter. How old is Bikey? Seems like he’s been around for ages?

“Came into Reading with Steve (Coppell) when he was 18 and he’s been in Russia. Was going to come to Pune last year but got injured. I think he’s about 32. This year he’s come to Steve and he knows he can play midfield as well. Because of Anas’ injuries he’s played all of his games at centre half.”

Got to be a bit diplomatic…

Quite right, he turned 33 the week before I spoke to Bobby, I’m guessing birthday parties aren’t big over there. I did have to ask Bobby about what his thoughts were surrounding the ‘penalty’ Bikey gave away vs Goa the other day…

“Got to be a bit diplomatic, but no, I didn’t think it was a penalty and the winning goal was offside so read into that what you will about what we think of the officials. The refereeing standard at times, it needs addressing shall we say, that’s as far as I can go on it because it’s a big part of the Indian game developing and they’ve got to develop the referees and they’re trying to do it ‘cos I saw Andy D’Urso at one of the games over here and they’re trying to monitor the games. So, they are trying to help them but by all accounts they had foreign refs for the later stages of the tournament but I don’t think they’re going to do it this year which could be a mistake.”

He continued…

“One or two of the Indian refs are on top of it but also in their defence they need to be allowed to learn and they’re going to make a few mistakes here and there but the reaction from the players isn’t right. The number of players which hound them puts them under pressure to start with. That side of it needs sorting out as well. I know we as a club try and stop the players getting round the ref but the make-up of the Indians is to go and argue the point. The authorities have to back the referees to deal with that stronger.”

So it’s not the same as in England where only the skipper can talk to the ref?

“Obviously not! Here, they get in the refs faces and its disgraceful at times. The refs need backing.”

We came away from the ISL for a moment as we looked back over his coaching career up until the present day as we took it all the way back to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2001. I quite enjoyed this bit, I must admit. I couldn’t quite remember, so I had to ask, who was the gaffer when you took over?

“Dave (Jones) took me into the club and I was just finishing my playing career, going around doing some afternoon clinics at clubs, I had offers to carry on playing in non league and what have you but the time was right to go and be a coach. Part way through the season I sent my CV out and Wolves (Colin Lee was the manager at the time) were one of the clubs who got in touch and later on I followed up in the season when I got in touch with Dave and he said I’ve dropped just right because I’m going into a meeting now to say I want a full-time goalkeeping coach so give us a ring later on. I phoned him and he said come down tomorrow and we’ll have a chat about it. So I had a little bit of good fortune and was in the right place at the right time and I was there the best time part of eight years.”

These are here for the day out!

Amazing, just goes to show that sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Bobby was at Wolves when they made it back to England’s top tier after nearly two decades so naturally, I had to ask what it was like to be part of the set-up back in 2003…

“Remarkable. I used to help the kitman in the morning as it was something to do. I went down in the morning and Sheffield United were already there taking photos and I thought we’ve won this, these are here for the day out. Our lot went down on the Thursday and we were gonna take them to one of the other play off games but they didn’t want to go.”

Easy saying that now, but just goes to show how much is do with mindset. He carried on:

“They said when we rock up we want to go to work and that was their take on it. Then bugger me, we were three up in twenty minutes! I know it can change but the penalty save from Matty in the second half nailed it down that it was gonna be our day and at 3-0 up we were cruising. The performance on the day and the big players turned up, it was comfortable in the end.”

I took that part to press on a little bit more about Matt Murray who was one of my idols growing up and asked a little more about him, to which Bobby started by telling me about his very short-lived spell in the Premier League.

“He played the one game against Blackburn. Matt is a diamond anyway and to this day he’s the best I’ve worked with and if he’d stayed fit he would have been a full international, there’s no two ways about it. He had everything, wait no he didn’t, his kick wasn’t very good! But, it was getting more consistent and better and we would have got on top of it if he had stayed fit. It was such a shame for the lad that he couldn’t play that season because he was such a massive part of us getting promoted.”

I was getting into this now, I had to ask more about the playoff final…  

“Michael Brown was their penalty taker and he’d be taken penalties all season and we’d be working on the save all week so when it came to fruition exactly how we planned it from a coaching point of view and from Matt’s as well that just nailed it down for us. All said and done, they were a good team, if it had gone to 3-1 it would have been a wobble. So from our point of view, we were made up with the save. He was a top goalie and he worked so hard to keep the ball out the net and it was just such a shame that his body let him down.”

It was all about Murray now as Bobby continued waxing lyrical about him:

“When I first joined the club he’d just come back from a patella tendon after two cruciates so he had three bad injuries by the time he was nineteen. The basics to work with were there from day one to work with which is the same with Ikeme to be fair, because he’s done brilliant has Carl and he’s probably the best learner I’ve ever worked with because you can coach people one day and they can forget it the next but not Carl, he was brilliant.”

One of the best

Bobby’s switch from Murray to Ikeme was hardly surprising considering how similar they are and he said this about Ikeme:

“He’ll tell you himself, he started from ground zero, apart from being a big lad, he didn’t have a great deal of keeping ability and he’ll be the first to admit it. Every day you’d drill something into him and he’d remember, so the next day we’d move on and he learnt so quick. He’s one of the best in the Championship when he’s playing, so reliable and makes great saves. He’s had one hell of a career.”

Ikeme was diagnosed with acute leukaemia before the season started this year, but, he’s on the mend which is great for all concerned and I think I speak for all Wolves fans when I say I hope he can play a part in our promotion party if/when it happens. We shifted to the other ‘main’ keeper who was at Wolves under Mimms’ stewardship, Wayne Hennessey:  

“Wayne was the one who came in the year before Carl, so Carl was sort of like a wildcard and Wayne has natural goalkeeping, he’s very calm, very cool and he needs a toe up his arse because he’s so laid back. So between the two of them there was a good competition in the end because Carl had to work really hard for it whereas it came natural to Wayne.”

Natural ability that Wayne some time doesn’t always use if you read between the lines…

“He still winds me up on the telly now because he’s still so laid back now, I end up shouting at the telly, bloody hell, come on! He’s a natural goalie, has the ability to be in the right place and made it look quite easy whereas Matt and Carl had to work for it, if you could put Wayne and Matt together, you’d have a helluva goalkeeper.”

We all got sacked

A combination of the pair is a mouthwatering prospect, if only. I’d babbled enough about Wolves and moved onto his time at Blackburn after some time where we both were trying to figure out why the hell Jan Budtz ended up in goal at Wolves…

“I played there for six years before. (Coaching wise) We had some good goalies there. We actually done quite well there for a couple of years and then it’s quite well documented what happened to the club after that. It was a big disappointment when I got fired because Paul Ince took me in, then Sam (Allardyce) came in, had a good couple of years, then Steve Kean, then all of a sudden, Henning Berg got the job and he was only there ten weeks and all of a sudden we’re his staff and we all got sacked.”

I was in a state of disbelief of this point, but let him continue as my mind was still trying to comprehend it all…

“I don’t where that come from or why ‘cause the goalies done well and we produced a couple, Jake Kean, was in the team when we left and (we) progressed him and (he) ended up in the Premier League and ended up playing in the Championship for us. Frank (Fielding) had got moved on for the money and the goalkeeping department got on alright but we got relegated. It was a strange one and a disappointment at the time and with my history of playing at the club I took it personal because I liked the club, I liked playing there, I liked coaching there, so I was disappointed when I left. Venky’s had come in and put their global advisor in charge which was when it all started to go wrong. It was the beginning of the end when they sacked Sam. We had just lost to Bolton 2-1 and if we’d drew we would have gone 7th in the PL and Sam got sacked on the Monday. You reap what you sow.”

It’s mental, literally mental. From almost 7th in the Premier League to League One, well played Blackburn. After all of that, where did you go?

“I had a short period at Oldham then went out to Bahrain had the best part of a year then came back and had a short spell at Bolton.”

I was going to ask about Oldham but I was too eager to ask about Bahrain as I jumped right in… How did the Bahrain thing come about?

“The fitness coach who was at Wolves, Alex Armstrong was assistant manager out there and they wanted a British goalkeeping coach so he gave me a bell to see if I fancied it. I was at Oldham and I thought quite right I do. I’ve always fancied working abroad and absolutely loved it out there. I was really happy that my coaching style and technique transferred onto the foreign goalies and it helped me believe more in myself as a coach. Very enjoyable; just a little bit short lived.”

Then back to Bolton from Bahrain, how was that?

“Went in there with Neil Lennon but the club was in a bit of a state, unfortunately Garside passed away during the period I was there and it was a bit rudderless, then the club had financial difficulties and Neil’s hands were tied and we struggled to be fair. Actually I’ve missed West Ham out! I went to West Ham before Bolton. West Ham’s goalkeeping coach had gone back to Cardiff and Sam (Allardyce) gave me a ring and asked me to go in there.”

The wheels fell off

Not sure how you forget a football club, but anyway…

“Went in there first week of September and we set off like a house on fire, beat Man City, beat Liverpool, doing really well but then the wheels fell off. Contracts were up at the end of the season and Sam said if I get a new contract, we’ll all get new contracts, it wasn’t forthcoming though and that’s when I went to Bolton.”

After Bolton, we spoke, very briefly about his time at Hull…

“Left Bolton cause they’d gone into admin, so they gave us six month’s notice two days before the end of the season and that had just run out before I went to Hull. I went in November and we got finished first week in Jan because Micky Phelan took me in and things hadn’t particularly worked out and Micky got fired and we all went. Then the Portuguese crew come in. Really short lived.”

Not too much to dwell on about Hull, I’d done my research and found out that Bobby spent some time working with XPro who I was not too familiar with so I asked what the craic was with them…

“An academy I’d be speaking to, meant to be all singing and all dancing, we done all the trials, got some really good young players and the arse fell out of it if I’m honest because the bloke who was supposedly putting money stopped putting money in. He was from outside of football so he thought we would make money along the way and thought we might get a million for this lad and he didn’t realise it might take years for that and he just pulled the plug.”

The mind really does boggle at people sometimes, why would you expect an immediate return from something like that? Anyway, Mimms continued about XPro…

“So that left us high and dry and it was annoying because I had began thinking I’ll have a breather from the first team stuff because it was a good idea with the right people in charge and in the meantime I’d knocked a few jobs back. It was disappointing to be fair, a bit of a battle to get back into it after that but then the Indian chance came about. Which I jumped at.”

Fancy a bit of that

Fair play. Did you have a previous relationship with Coppell, or?

“No, how it come about was through Graham Stack and he was at Wolves and he played with Steve at Kerala but then he signed two years at Eastleigh so Steve was asking about any goalkeeper coaches so Stacky put my name forward and Steve called and asked if I fancied it. Said yeah, definitely fancy a bit of that. It’s different isn’t it? Experience if nothing else so jumped at the chance.”

I was conscious that this season was nowhere near finished but I had to ask what he planned on doing after this season was done and dusted…

“I’ve enjoyed it and I’d definitely do at least another season if not two because there’s legs in it and the game is taking off. The interest in it is remarkable at every club and throughout the nation. The coverage is good, I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen and the club we’re at are trying to improve. Trying to get a new training ground sorted out and do it properly. For me, I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s a win win and the goalies have been good to work with which is a bonus but the drawback is your away from home. It’s reignited my belief in football.”

You could tell he meant that as well. Interesting to know. What about Jamshedpur’s plan?

“It’s always been the target to get in the playoffs and at the start, goalscoring was a problem, but, we’ve been really competitive in all the games. If we look at some of the games early on, the 0-0s; NorthEast we didn’t play particularly well and they played really well against us and that was the first game. Since then, nobody has really caused us any problems, so we know we can be competitive against any team in the league and we’re starting to score goals. This next two weeks will be the tell tale as we’ve got three games away on the bounce which makes it five games in thirteen days. At this moment in time, we’re thinking we can get in the playoffs and most of the league will be thinking that and what is reassuring is that a lot of teams go away and win games in this league. Got as good a chance away from home as we have at home.”

I then quipped about them finishing with two games at home on the bounce, however, Bobby made a point that that seldom means anything…

“Look through the league it’s very random in terms of the results, Chennai probably been the most consistent but the first 45 minutes of their league campaign you’d think bloody hell these are rubbish but then from there they’ve gone on and they’ve arguably been the best team; the most consistent without a doubt. So it shows you just how quickly things change in this league.”

Not gonna concede a lot

This was done before NorthEast beat Chennaiyin incidentally… He carried on;  

“Every game we think we’ve got a chance of winning and we know the defensive part of the team is solid and we know we’re not gonna concede a lot of goals. And if we get it right at the other end of the pitch which we’re starting to do, we’ve got a good chance of getting in the playoffs.”

We were coming to the end now but I wanted to know what his general thoughts were around the ISL and Indian football in general.

“The product and the way it’s presented is good. Probably needs a couple more teams and do it that way to start off with. Extend the season a little bit, actually, it wouldn’t have to be extended because there’s period where you don’t play for ten days so you could play midweek.”

“The standard is getting better, the foreign players aren’t the ones that are finished now, they’re hungrier and fitter now which is dragging the Indians along which means they are getting better and more professional. Just needs tweaking here and there. All said and done its taken England 120 years to get to where it is and this has taken four years. If the interest is there we can drive it on. The fan base is really good, when the games are going your way, they’re really noisy. It’s a good place to play football as there are no distractions, the fans don’t get you on your back as they just wanna shout and enjoy the game, so in a lot of cases they might not know what they’re watching but they’re enjoying it. They want to be entertained. It’s good.”

Refs need respect

This reminded me of the Mumbai fans I’d seen cheering when Bengaluru got awarded a penalty. He did say it tends to be like that:

“It’s weird cause you’ll go away and they’ll cheer you onto the pitch as you warm up and you’re thinking this ain’t happening back home, you’re getting booed and abused. They just want to see football players on the pitch and they’re not bothered what colours they’re wearing. It’s refreshing. The British game is quite cynical at times. The respect you get is a big thing ‘cause being involved in the football club, there’s no jealousy as there is at home and they respect you for what you are here. Which is why it surprises me the way the get round the referee, The lack of respect for the referees is staggering. A lot of foreigners think they can change the referees mind. The refs need the respect or they’re going to lose heart with it all and it’s only going to be better for the ISL if the referees are better.”

Finished eloquently by Bobby but there were three quick-fire questions I wanted to shoot at him before I let him go…

The night was even better…

Best keeper you’ve worked with?

“Matt Murray, without a doubt.”

Best head coach/manager you’ve worked with?

“Sam Allardyce; his organisation and his knowledge on the game. He also lets you work and get on with it and he knows a little bit about everybody’s job and he’ll let you get on with it. He’ll question you every now and again but he’s really good to work for. If you do it right for him, he’s brilliant to work for”.

Favourite place that you’ve worked so far?

“Enjoyed my time at Wolves but I enjoyed working at Blackburn because of my history playing there, won the league as a player, we got promoted (as a coach) so I see it as my club as such. Just from an experience point of view, I really enjoyed Bahrain as well.”

I closed off by thanking Bobby again for the memorable day back in Cardiff which will have been fifteen years in May which is mind blowing to which he said,

“The day was good, but the night was even better.”

I’m sure it was Bobby, I’m sure it was.

About the Author

Jake Flock
Football and writing are my two biggest passions, so seems right to combine the pair, don't you think?