Former A-League striker Iain Ramsay says having ex-England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson as his boss at January’s Asian Cup showed why the veteran is such a class act.
The Aussie-born ex-Sydney FC, Adelaide United and Melbourne City forward represented the Philippines at the region’s showpiece event thanks to his Filipino heritage (his mother is from the country, his father is Scottish).
And even though the Azkals left the UAE without a win - and Ramsay was on the fringes of the starting XI - just working under the Swedish coach left a lasting impression on the 31-year-old.
“Qualifying for the Asian Cup, it was massive for Philippines football,” Ramsay told FTBL.
Following a brief stint in Manila under ex-Sydney FC manager Terry Butcher, the Philippines FA went after a much bigger name for such an important tournament.
Eriksson, now 71, joined the Philippines last October and was tasked with guiding the Azkals through the Suzuki Cup in late 2018 and January’s 2019 Asian Cup.
It never was going to be easy. And minus their biggest name from the English Premier League, Cardiff City keeper Neil Etheridge, the Philippines had a tough tournament.
They lost to Marcello Lippi's China 3-0, Kyrgyzstan 3-1 and South Korea 1-0, albeit only conceding in the final 25 minutes.
“When Sven was appointed, it was a massive surprise for us," Ramsay said. "Someone with his coaching calibre and history. It shows the direction and how serious Philippines football is.
“It was a great experience. First and foremost he’s a gentleman and a really classy guy and very nice. Coaching wise, he kept it all very simple and direct.
“And he was very calm when it came to games.
"He tried to implement what he could with the squad he had. He didn’t know any of us from a bar of soap."
With a CV that includes Serie A, EPL clubs and England at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, Ramsay and Co. were desperate to take as much from the relatively brief stint under the Swede.
“We didn’t work with him for a long time, but in that short space of time, we tried to understand his way of football as quick as possible," said Ramsay.
“If he opened up with his stories about his career, we were lucky to hear them and learn from his experience.
“But really, what I would say is he is a gentleman, a class act and I really enjoyed the experience, it’s really helped me.
“He did a decent job and it was a pleasure to work under him.”
It was a big month for the former Reds star, who signed for Thai side Sukhothai FC in the vastly improving Thailand league, arguably South-East Asia's strongest.
There he plays alongside fellow Aussie-born defender Curran Ferns with the club drawing 0-0 last weekend in their season opener away to Chiangmai.
Ramsay didn’t get a chance to face the Socceroos at the Asian Cup. Though it might still happen in the future.
However, Australia got a taste of Philippines football after club side Ceres Negros defeated Brisbane Roar in an ACL qualifier.
It’s a nation on the rise, says Ramsay. And with Cardiff keeper Etheridge, who has over 60 caps, they can go further in the region.
The Bluebirds keeper made the decision to stay in the Premier League and help his club in their fight for EPL survival.
“It was a shame we couldn’t have Neil on board at the Asian Cup and for me, he would’ve made a massive impact and confidence to the team," Ramsay said.
“But for the federation to get Sven, shows how ambitious the Philippines are about their football."