Mumbai City FC’s ISL League Shield-winning head coach Des Buckingham has decided to leave the club and join Oxford United, which competes in the third division of English football.
“Mumbai City FC have announced that Head Coach Des Buckingham will leave the Islanders with immediate effect,” Mumbai City FC said in a statement on Thursday, adding that a successor will be named “in due course”.
The Englishman, who joined Mumbai City in 2021 and signed a contract extension earlier this year, had started his coaching career at Oxford (he also played for them) through their age-group squads. Talks about Buckingham returning to his boyhood club were reportedly on for the last couple of weeks.
“While we are sad to see him leave, Des wants to take up a project that is close back home in the English Football League. His contribution to Mumbai City cannot be understated,” said Kandarp Chandra, CEO of Mumbai City FC.
Mumbai City are currently placed fourth in the ISL points table, with three wins in five outings. They next play an away game with Nassaji Mazandaran on November 28 in the group stage of the AFC Champions League, where the team is yet to win a game this season. Reports in the British media stated that Mumbai City will be given a “hefty compensation package” for Buckingham.
Taking over from Sergio Lobera, who guided Mumbai City to the ISL title in 2020-21, Buckingham carried forward the club’s growth trajectory after moving from another City Football Group (CFG) club – A-League’s Melbourne City FC. Mumbai City won last season’s ISL League Shield with a record 14 wins out of the 20 games while losing just twice.
Their attacking brand of football – Buckingham’s team pumped in 54 goals, the most in ISL’s league stage – made their dominance even more appealing. Under him, Mumbai City also became the first Indian club to taste a win in the AFC Champions League as it signed off second in the group stage last year.
Signing a two-year contract extension in January this year, Buckingham told this paper he had offers from other clubs but chose to stay on because “putting things in place that allows us long-term success” excited him.