Ipoh (Malaysia): Hinting that Australian Terry Walsh's unceremonious ouster was a step in the backward direction, former Indian women's team chief coach Neil Hawgood feels his compatriot took national men's side to a "very good place" during his short one-year stint.
Barely days after guiding India to a gold medal after a hiatus of 16 years in the Incheon Games, Walsh was forced to quit his job following differences with Hockey India and Sports Authority of India.
Even though days later, the Australian had expressed willingness to return to India but the national federation shut the door on him citing his alleged financial irregularities during his stint with USA Hockey.
And Hawgood said Walsh's exit did not come at the right time especially after India directly qualified for next year's Rio Olympics under his guidance following their Asian Games triumph.
"It has nothing to do with me. Being in India I won't like to comment on that," was Hawgood's reaction when asked about Walsh's exit from Indian hockey.
"But I feel the timing was wrong because he just took the team to a really good place. In the end they qualified for the Olympics which is a good thing for the country. Now they just need to focus," the Australian told PTI when prodded further.
"But they have now got a very good coach in Paul van Ass. Paul is one of the best coaches in the world and he has the ability to take India forward. But he will need time," Hawgood, who is currently serving as a consultant with the Malaysian Hockey Confederation, said on the sidelines of the ongoing Sultan Azlan Shah Cup at the Azlan Shah Stadium here.
Hawgood had a successful stint with the Indian women's hockey team. After he took charge in July 2012, India bagged the bronze at the 2013 Asia Cup and 2014 Incheon Asian Games, a fifth-place finish at the Commonwealth Games, runner-up at the Asian Champions Trophy last year and won its maiden medal (bronze) at the junior World Cup under the Australian's stewardship.