Indian summer for former PNE striker

Iain Hume celebrates a goal at Notts County in October 2013
Iain Hume celebrates a goal at Notts County in October 2013
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Former Preston North End striker Iain Hume has taken a passage to India for the latest step in his eventful career.

The 30-year-old arrived last Sunday in the city of Kochi on India’s western coast to begin life as a player for Kerala Blasters.

Kerala are one of eight teams who will play in the inaugural season of the 
Indian Super League – a concept based on cricket’s successful Indian Premier League.

It is a quick-fire competition – starting on October 12 and finishing in December – allowing Hume to be back in England for Christmas 
and a free 
agent in January’s transfer window.

Hume left Deepdale in the summer at the end of his contract and, while he had a couple of offers from clubs in this country, they were not quite what he was looking for.

Then came the opportunity to play in India and he was among 49 non-Indian players put into a draft system similar to the one used in the NFL.

Kerala Blasters are co-owned by cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, and they will be managed by former England goalkeeper David James.

Former Newcastle and Cardiff striker Michael Chopra will be one of Hume’s team-mates, as will Jamie McAllister, who had a loan spell with North End early in 2012.

The prospect of playing in India and being part of a league which it is hoped can increase the popularity of football in a cricket-mad country, is an exciting one for Hume.

It means three months away from his family, who are staying behind in the Wirral. But the Canada international thinks he has made the right career choice.

Hume told the Evening Post: “I had a few offers in England but nothing that was viable and worth uprooting my family for and taking the children out of their school.

“I was just hanging fire to see what else might be available when a friend of mine in the media told me he had been offered a job connected with the Indian Super League.

“He asked me whether playing there interested me, I got a few details about it and then my agent go on to it.

“With me having played in the leagues I have and for Canada, the league gave me the chance to join the draft.

“It is the same method as to how they put sides together in the Indian Premier League and in the United States with college players.

“I was one of 49 professional overseas players who the clubs could choose.

“Any of them could have chosen me, I could have been up in Delhi or out east in Calcutta but fortunately I ended-up in Kochi which is a nice place on the south west coast.

“The draft I was in was the third one. The first was for marquee signings and that draft included David Trezeguet, Alessandro Del Piero and Freddie Ljungberg.

“Then the second draft was for Indian players, with each club able to sign 14 of them.

“After that it was the 49 players from overseas.

“David James is going to be our player-manager. I know David from playing against him and also know Michael Chopra.

“Jamie McAllister, who was a team-mate of mine at Preston for a short time, is there in a player-coach role - he knows David James from Bristol City.

“It is going to be an intense period.

“We have got a four-week pre-season, a couple of practice games and then the season starts on October 12.

“There are 14 games until December 12, coming thick and fast.

“It is exciting because it is all alien to me.

“During my career I have got used to the structure of the league in England and way which clubs are set up.

“This is something new and I have to adapt to that.

“The idea is to try and grow the popularity of football in India.

“Cricket is the No.1 sport in India and keeps on growing.

“But the idea is that football can be popular too. The population of India is 1.3 billion, yet the country is outside of the top 150 of world football.

“This new league is to try and get people to take notice of football, open more people’s eyes to it.

“To be part of the inaugural league is an honour for me and hopefully I can do my bit to help football grow.”

The summer was a strange one for Hume, who was sat at home instead of going through the rigours of pre-season training.

He ended last season with a winners’ medal, having helped Fleetwood to promotion to League One via the play-offs during a three-month loan spell with the Cod Army.

The chance to return to Fleetwood was spoken about but the move did not materialise.

Said Hume: “It was the first summer for 15 years that I had not been at a club.

“I had never been out of contract before and it was a strange old one.

“On the other side of the coin, I have been able to spend some quality time with the family. My youngster daughter started school earlier in the month and I was able to be with her on her first day – I had missed my older daughter’s first day because I was training.

“This chance in India is a good one. There is nothing ridiculous about the money and it is for three months only.

“It is not for financial reasons that I’m here.

“Fingers crossed, I can stay injury-free and get 14 games, then I will be match fit for January when the transfer window opens.

“It won’t necessarily be England where I’m looking.

“Asia is a big place and it is ridiculous how much people care about football there.

“If I can do well in India, who knows what doors it might open up?

“I’ll enjoy these three months in India, work hard and see what happens.”

Hume spent just under four years at North End, joining on loan from Barnsley in September 2010 before signing permanently in a £350,000 deal the following January.

Success and medals only came during two loan spells away from PNE though, at Doncaster and then Fleetwood.

His loan at Doncaster in 2012/13 came after he was removed from the first-team squad by Graham Westley 
and made to train away from the club at a gym in Accrington, together with a handful of other out-of-favour players.

“I have no regrets at all about coming to Preston. I loved the people around the club” said Hume.

“It is a great club which only got stained by certain people for a while.

“What happened to me here a couple of years ago has been well documented.

“Things are done at clubs for football reasons but that one time there was someone who made things personal.

“I’m not going to go over old ground with all of that.

“That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Preston, I met lots of good people within the club and had a great relationship with the supporters.

“The highlights? There was the 6-4 win at Leeds when big Jon Parkin got his hat-trick and we came back from being 4-1 down.

“We beat Swansea 2-1 at home that season and I scored both goals. Swansea were up there in the table and ended up getting promoted to the Premier League.

“Yet that day, they could not handle us.

“The start of the season in League One under Phil Brown was memorable, with us scoring lots of goals. That was a brilliant time.”