Indian adventure for ex-Stags pair

editorial image

After his long spells at Mansfield Town and Barnsley, Bobby Hassell ended his career with an Indian adventure alongside ex-Stags manager Stuart Watkiss.

It ended prematurely, but Hassell has no regrets and said it was a fantastic experience.

Hassell played 164 games for Mansfield Town and 299 for Barnsley but ended his playing career with 18 games for Bharet FC in Pune, Maharashtra.

“I got asked to go there during the last six months of my contract at Barnsley which I turned down,” he said.

“Then Stuart Watkiss got the manager’s job. I was still really close friends with Stuart and he asked me to go out with him as assistant manager, which I did and ended up playing every game bar one.

“It was a great experience, a fantastic experience really going forward, seeing the other side of football and how difficult it is for managers, especially when we got there two weeks before the season and we only had one player signed.

“We literally had to play a game or two with a team that was put together by the Indian people there. It was nowhere near good enough, but we competed in every game and we beat a couple of top clubs over there.”

Attendances and interest varied wildly from city to city.

“It depended where you went,” he said. “In Pune where we were based it was only about 1,000 – it was more a cricket city. They weren’t really interested in football.

“But going to Calcutta or Bangalore there was 15,00-20,000 there as they were more football towns. It was an eye-opener with the poverty over there and the experience of how they treat each other.

“In terms of football I don’t believe it will ever kick on there as they are cricket mad. But it was a fantastic experience and one I don’t regret at all.”

Hassell and Watkiss found themselves flying home earlier than hopes.

“We were supposed to be there for two seasons, but after one season me and Stuart approached the owner and told him what needed to be done and the investment that was needed,” said Hassell.

“He was a multi billionaire, but I think he’d realised he couldn’t commit his time so he basically pulled the plug after one year as it needed more of his investment and more of his time.

“A lot of the clubs are like that over there. They will probably start up again in a year or two. New clubs come, last a year or two, then they fold. Then they come up again three or four years later.

“There is a lot of corruption from what I understand with the Indian FA, so they don’t like getting involved.”