altBOB HOUGHTON (pictured), the former Bristol City manager, is hoping to guide India's footballers to the 2012 Olympics for the first time in 60 years.


Houghton, arguably English football's most travelled coach, has set his team's sights on the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 World Cup after they won the AFC Challenge Cup title earlier this year, beating Tajikistan 4-1.


Houghton said: "The Olympic probables are going to gather for a camp in July and we now have a lot of players to choose from.


"Right now we are in the top-20 [countries] in Asia but we need to be within the top-16."


India's only previous appearances in the Olympic football tournament was when London last hosted the Games, in 1948, and at Helsinki in 1952.


In London, most of the Indian team played barefooted but still were only narrowly beaten 2-1 by France at Ilford in what was the country's first ever international match.


Two years later India qualified for the World Cup in Brazil after all their scheduled qualifying opponents withdrew but were unable to take up the place because of the refusal of their players to wear boots, which FIFA required.


They have not come close to qualifying for the final stages of the tournament since.


They did appear at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 but were beaten 10-1 by Yugoslavia in the preliminary round.


Houghton's managerial career started nearly 39 years ago when he was put in charge at Southern League Hastings United at the age of only 21 and he has since worked in 10 different countries, including coaching China's national team.


His most memorable achievement came in 1979 when he guided Malmo to the final of the European Cup, where they were narrowly beaten 1-0 by English champions Nottingham Forest.


The only job he has had in top-flight English football was with Bristol City, who he managed between 1980 and 1982, leaving after the club was relegated from the then First Division following severe financial problems.


Houghton was appointed manager of India in 2006.


They have recently qualified for the final stages of the Asian Cup for the first time in 24 years.


The tournament is due to be held in Qatar.


The 61-year-old has also set his sights on London 2012 but believes that the 2018 World Cup may be a more obtainable target for a country currently 143rd in the FIFA rankings.


Houghton said: "Realistically speaking, the focus should be the 2018 World Cup.


"By the time the qualifiers for that tournament starts the under-16 boys will be 22, the under-19s will be 25 and the Olympic side will be 28.


"If we keep moving in the right direction then we will have a good bunch of players to chose from."