LIKE others, David Robertson’s route into football management came via the lower leagues in Scotland. However, spells at Elgin and Montrose convinced him there had to be better opportunities elsewhere. Now, after a decade in the USA, “home” – for part of the year – means India for the former-Aberdeen, Rangers and Leeds United defender, as manager of Real Kashmir.

The boom in football across the subcontinent has attracted players such as Stephen Pearson, Darryl Duffy and Alan Gow from these parts over the years, and more famously, names like Robbie Keane, Adrian Mutu and Helder Postiga. In managerial terms, Peter Reid, Teddy Sheringham and Steve Coppell have all coached in India. So, when an offer was made just over a year ago to Robertson, it was time to try something new.

And, what he found has been both eye-opening and a step in the right direction career-wise.

“I had been in America for 10 years, but I’d reached a point as executive director at Phoenix Wolves [now Phoenix Rising] where I was doing everything; hiring staff, the wages, organising transport, you name it. The only way to get things done was doing it yourself but eventually it takes over your life. You are in the office from 7am until 3pm, and then you are on the coaching field until 10 at night. At weekends, you could be in California, or Vegas, but coaching three teams would mean 12 games in three days. It was never ending, relentless.

“It was a great place to live, but you never got a chance to enjoy it. Then, an agent asked if I was interested in moving to India. It came at a good time, in January last year.

I fancied a change, the kids wanted back to Scotland, so we bought a house in Aberdeen, then I moved out to India for the season.

“I’ll be honest, it was hard at the start. But you adapt,” says Robertson, currently working in India’s third-tier.

“You have the I-League, and the famous names like Kingfisher East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, then Super League and into I-League Second Division, which is where we are. When the likes of East Bengal meet Mohun, 70,000 will go to the game. The aim is to eventually get into the big I-League, which would be massive.”

Beating Lonestar 2-1 away on Thursday night leaves Real Kashmir level on points – and goal difference – with joint-leaders Hindustan. If Robertson’s team win their next two matches, they should qualify for the promotion play-offs.

Robertson, however, is the first to admit that cultural battles are as challenging as anything he faces tactical, but says it is rewarding.

“Kashmir has a population of eight million, the majority Muslim. But we also have Sikhs, Hindus and two or three other religions in the team. They also speak about four or five languages. Add my two foreign players, who come from Nigeria, it’s a fair old mix. But we get the message across – football is football at the end of the day.”

But, having players from different backgrounds does create issues for Robertson and some he had never encountered before.

“If you say meet at eight, that means any time from 8.00 until 8.59. Their time-keeping makes Ally McCoist look prompt.

“Because of those different religions and beliefs, I hadn’t taken in to account we could only train at certain times. Early on, I booked a Friday session and no-one was there, because of prayers.

“It is a really family-orientated country. But you suddenly find a player not turning up because his cousin is ill. And the excuses just make you laugh. A lot of the players travel on scooters and motorbikes. It was chucking it down once when I turned up for training, and again, nobody there. But because of the rain, the mums and dads wouldn’t let them ride to training because it was too wet and dangerous!

“Imagine Fergie [Alex Ferguson] or Walter [Smith’s] reaction to that,” laughs Robertson, who does see improvement in the club, in all areas.

“Things in India are always last minute. Last summer, we organised a tour in Scotland, four games in five days. A week before the trip, our visas to the UK were denied. But on Monday night we got approval, booked flights on Tuesday, flew Wednesday, arrived Thursday and played Albion Rovers that night – and were 4-0 down at half time. The players were wondering what the hell had happened. But they got better and drew 2-2 with Partick Thistle’s U20s a few days later.

“This summer, we’ll take the under-18s on tour, probably to Germany because you have to measure yourself against what is happening outside India and Asia.

“In saying that, football has a huge market and ambitions. Everything in India is of a bigger scale, as you’d imagine with a billion of a population, so the possibilities are endless here.”