David Robertson says he only sees Real Kashmir going from strength to strength as he prepares for a new season.
The former Dons full-back returns to India this month to prepare his men for the start of the new I-League season which gets underway in October.
After guiding the Srinagar-based club to third place in India’s top flight in their debut I-League season last term, Robertson, who became manager in January 2017, says the future is bright for his club.
The 50-year-old, who played for Aberdeen between 1986 and 1991 before also starring for Rangers, Leeds and Scotland, said: “We are in the top league in India – so more finance has come in through sponsorship and we’ve brought another player in from Scotland (Kallum Higginbotham).
“We’re attracting good players and a lot of the top players in India now want to come and play for us even though it is a troubled area.
“Other teams over there say we treat our players better than any other club in India with accommodation, travel and getting paid on time.
“It says a lot about the club that people are desperate to play for us.
“The fans are there as well, when we were in League 2 we would get between 500 and 1,000.
“Now we have a stadium of 15,000 in the top league and we are getting 20,000 people turning up.
“They can’t all get in but the club is looking at making the ground bigger. A lot of money has been spent by the club and the local government as well.
“There’s not a lot in Kashmir, there’s not even a McDonalds – it’s a place that’s got nothing.
“I think technology has helped make it successful because when I was playing there was no internet, no mobile phones, no Playstations.
“But the players today sit in a hotel because there is nothing to do and they’re happy to do that.
“I remember as a player going to Holland in pre-season and there was no internet or anything so you were sat there and you’d use the payphone to call home and it would cost a fortune.
“But the players now are happy to sit in a hotel and play on the Playstation or whatever. All the team are in one hotel which is good – the team spirit is amazing within the squad.”
Robertson and his club were the subject of a television documentary earlier this year.
The same broadcasters are returning this season to make a follow-up about the club defying the odds while the conflict over the region of Kashmir and Jammu rages on between India and Pakistan.
Robertson added: “The club is a focal point for the area because there hasn’t been professional football there before.
“The standard of player is good but because it’s a troubled state nobody had any interest in running a professional team.
“Everything is against us in Kashmir – some teams don’t want to come and play with us because of the security issues.
“One thing we lacked last season was a bit of experience and we’ve added that.
“Now we are almost there as such when it comes to trying to challenge – on paper we have a good team. Last season nobody knew about us, we were the unexpected package.
“Now teams know all about us and they won’t enjoy playing us.”
One of Robertson’s key players is his son Mason and he admits he was concerned about bringing the former Peterhead defender to Kashmir.
“It is home for us really. I was concerned about Mason to start with,” he said.
“He’s lived in America and Aberdeen and was then swapping that for the back of beyond in India.
“I told him all the horror stories – but he’s loved it, he sits in the hotel all the time.
“Our family have come over to visit and his fiancee has come over from America to visit.
“Mason had opportunities to join other clubs, but Kashmir pushed the boat out to keep him.
“I’m delighted with that because him being there helps me.
“As a player Mason has improved a lot and I always knew he could do it.
“When he was playing part-time in Scotland it was difficult for him to get properly fit because of his body type.
“Training full-time he lost 20lbs before the start of the season and he’s probably one of the best players in the league.”