A landlocked country in South Asia and located in the Eastern Himalayas, the mysterious Bhutan is bordered by Tibet (known as the 'Region of China') in the north, the Sikkim state of India and the Chumbi Valley of Tibet in the west, the Arunachal Pradesh state of India in the east, and the states of Assam and West Bengal in the south. In South Asia, it is the region's second least populous nation after the Maldives. Proudly, Bhutan has never been colonised.
The BFCN was able to have a chat with Josh, who has now followed the footsteps of another Brit, Trevor Morgan (their National Team Head Coach) in coaching in the country.
" I was previously working at an academy in Thailand and headed back to England for a short time. It was then, when a friend of mine who I have known for about 7 years through social media, messaged me about joining as player/coach for Thimphu City FC, the club he was president of. Of course, this was something I couldn't turn down and with my sights set on coaching 1st team football again, I jumped at the chance! After one stop in India, I then flew into Paro, Bhutan. Upon arriving, I had an idea of what it would be like but the country has exceeded my expectations! As soon as you leave India and begin to fly into Bhutan you start to get a feeling of what it's going to be like, vast mountain regions covered with trees and a lot of small towns. The airport is a small one based in Paro, about 45 minutes by car to the capital Thimphu. The roads are mostly modern and spiraled around mountains, there's a beautiful river running through most of the journey to Thimphu, a real breathtaking sight. As you arrive in Thimphu things become a lot busier, and this was where I was quite shocked. Whilst Thimphu isn't a typical city, it still has all the modern things you'd come to expect, coffee shops, pizza and burger restaurants, phone shops, supermarkets.... and whilst I guess this is normal, I for one wasn't expecting to be able to go into town and get a Baskin Robbins or go for a game of snooker!
Bhutan follows the UK in many ways, English is the most common spoken language along with Bhutanese, they follow the same school times, the kids are taught in English, they drive on the same side of the road as us and there are many more examples. All of the people are really nice and welcoming, with it being quite a small place as you can imagine, almost everybody knows each other or knows somebody you know, it has a real safe community feel about it.
Having followed the football here for several years, I kind of knew what to expect in terms of level but as most things, once you see things in person it's a little different to social media. Thimphu City F.C is one of the biggest clubs in Bhutan, with our squad consisting of mostly national team players. There are several other good teams, Paro FC (the money boys), Transport FC who won the league last season, UA Academy and a couple of others. With the prize money increasing for the league and AFC Cup participation the clubs are recruiting more and more foreigners. The maximum allowed is 4 with 3 being able to play on the field at once.
Right now, we are preparing for the CEM Gold Cup in Assam, India. It's an AFC recognized tournament with teams from Nepal and Sri Lanka also taking part. We usually train twice per day with a 2 hour tactical and technical session followed by a 1 hour fitness session later on. Any chance to face international opposition is a great opportunity for exposure, as football is one of the most played sports along with archery and basketball. We usually train 3 hours per day, the 2 hour session is on an artificial pitch where we have use of it all, and the hour session is usually at a running track not far from where we train. The sessions have been good, we currently have a squad of 20, all of who are adapting to the style of play and work rate I'm demanding from them. Feedback has been good from the boys, whilst most have played under foreign coaches in the NT, it's the first time they have worked under one in club football.
The club, players and people have been brilliant. Being a foreign coach people are automatically interested in you and what you do and most importantly, if you know what you're doing! I believe the players buy into what you're trying to achieve much quicker than say, if you're a local coach coming into the club. I guess this gives a foreigner a balance between expectation and grace to perform at a decent level.
In regards to adaptions needed to be made, it's been quite a smooth ride. Football wise it's been fairly easy, I'd say the hardest thing has been trying to get the players to the fitness level required to play a high press, something I know they're capable of and a tactic which i believe will be effective in this league once mastered. Off the pitch, the weather has been a shock to the system after spending months in Thailand, it usually varies from 0 degrees to around 12 here.. a little different to the 35 degrees I've got used to!
As always, the more experience you get as a coach the better you become. Being involved in full-time football at this level has been brilliant, you get to deal with all types of egos and attitudes and you have to adapt and man manage them as best as you can. The plans of the club are simple, the league begins in June and the aim is to win it and get into the AFC Cup.
For my future personal plans, location wise I'm open to going anywhere whether its Africa, Asia or Europe. The most important thing for me is to work within a professional club as either Head Coach or Assistant and prove that I have what it takes to win football games and progress into a top manager".
You can contact Josh at Cochjoshshepherd@hotmail.com and you can also find him on Instagram at coachjoshshepherd.