A week before Christmas, Iain Hume experienced an ‘insane’ occasion in his football career.
At the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, India, the ex-Preston striker was in the Atletico de Kolkata side which won the Indian Super League (ISL) play-off final on penalties.
Their opponents were Kerala Blasters – Hume’s former club – and the final was played at Kerala’s home ground.
“It was insane, I couldn’t have written the script any better,” said Hume, now back home on the Wirral after his latest Indian adventure.
“The ISL is played on a league basis to start with, then the top four go into the play-offs like they have here.
“In the semi-final, we beat Mumbai 3-2 at home in the first leg and then drew 0-0 away.
“The final was against my former club Kerala at their stadium – the venue for the final is picked halfway through the season.
“On paper, there were 65,000 people in the ground but the estimates put the crowd closer to 75,000-80,000.
“The atmosphere was electric and we drew 1-1, with it going to penalties.
“In the shoot-out I missed my penalty which was very disappointing for me personally.
“But the other lads did well and we won the shoot-out.
“This was my third year playing in the ISL and each time I had got to the play-offs.
“I’m the highest scorer over the three years and that is something I’m very proud of.
“In my first year, I got to the final with Kerala but were beaten in the final.
“In 2015, I signed for Atletico de Kolkata and made the semi-finals.
“Then there was the final which we won last month.
“I have loved playing out in India, the people have been brilliant.
“It might be that I go there again later this year.
“I’ve exchanged a few messages with the sporting director about it and I will just see what happens.”
It is two-and-a-half years since Hume left North End, his last few months on the books actually spent on loan with Fleetwood.
He was in the Cod Army side which won the League Two play-off final in 2014.
Hume’s time at Deepdale was eventful to say the least, with 27 goals in 89 games.
There was his fall-out with Graham Westley and exiling from the first-team squad in 2012.
He came back into the fold after being on loan with Doncaster, Simon Grayson including him in the squad for the 2013/14 season.
When first-team chances became fewer, off he went to Fleetwood before leaving Deepdale at the end of his contract in June 2014.
It was then that the chance to go to India came up.
Hume said: “I had been in English football for 14 or 15 seasons and after leaving Preston it was the first time I had been out of contract in my career.
“With what was going on or rather wasn’t going on in the UK for me, I decided it was time for a challenge somewhere else.
“The opportunity to go to India came up and I can assure you it was not a money thing.
“It all came about when I met with a Canadian journalist to do an interview about my former club Leicester being promoted to the Premier League.
“He said he had been offered a job in India but couldn’t take it.
“We got talking about the ISL that was being set up and it went from there.
“I entered a draft and got selected by Kerala.”
The ISL is a short burst of football, pre-season starting in August, with the season from October to December.
Early last year, Hume had a spell playing in Spain with Ponferradina. Then it was back to India.
So what is life like for a footballer in India?
Said Hume: “The ISL is very well funded and the aim is to make it on a par with other Asian leagues.
“With it being quite a short season, we live in a hotel.
“Atletico de Kolkata have a partnership with Atletico Madrid – we do pre-season in Spain and use their facilities.
“I played in Spain from last February to May in the second division.
“Unfortunately, the coach changed soon after I signed and he didn’t want to play the foreign players.
“I didn’t make the impact I would have like but when I got the chance to play a few games, I did well.
“While Spain did not quite work out, playing in India has.
“I’m 33 now and in three seasons out there, I’ve only missed one game with an injury.”
Hume still follows PNE’s progress, with some of his former team-mates still at the club. “Chris Humphrey was my best mate there and he has just left to go to Hibs,” said Hume.
“Paul Huntington, John Welsh and Alan Browne are still there, I keep my eye on them to see how they are doing.
“I spent three-and-a-half years with Preston and two-and-a-half years of it was good – the spell I was shipped out, I won the league with Doncaster.
“The 6-4 win at Leeds when we were 4-1 down was incredible – Jon Parkin got a hat-trick and I scored with a header.
“That was the best game of football I have ever been involved in.”