As the Men of Steel head to their last game of the first set of fixtures against the Highlanders, the Gaffer talks about the exciting season of the Hero ISL, approach for the upcoming game and some transfer and injury updates:
Here are the excerpts from the pre-match press conference:
Thoughts on the Hero ISL becoming the most entertaining league in this season
Yes, certainly it is. I have worked in this league for almost 3 years and each year it keeps getting far more competitive than the last. That’s the sign of a good league in which every team that are part of the league thinks that they can win games on any given day and I think that is the testimony of the hard work that everybody has put in throughout all these years, from the outset of the Hero ISL to the growth of quality that the league has seen. Some of the individual goals scored in this season and the quality shown is capable of competing with any other league when you look at Greg’s free-kick goal, Luna’s long range finish, Vazquez’s finish. Some unbelievable goals have been scored and looking at some individual skills, the league is surely getting better at all times and competitive in nature. Every team feels that they have a chance of being in those top 4 spots and we are not even halfway through the league which tells us the competitive nature and how tough the league could be at times. For our part, we have to focus on what we can do and we know when we are at our best then we can win games. So that is what we have to do. We were very unfortunate in the last couple of games which we probably should have won considering the number of chances we created. So, we have to get back to getting those 3 points and we know we have a tough game against NorthEast United FC but if we can get points then it will elevate us back into the position in the league where we want to be and that’s the aim for ourselves.
Thoughts on how a win will be a good opportunity to build momentum for the remaining season
Like I have said before, it is not important where you are placed after 2 games, 4 games or 10 games, but it is important the position the team is in after 20 games. But in the build up to those 20 games, the more points you take, the better chance you have in the league. If we’re honest, we had a couple of opportunities that we’ve slipped through, when we should have had the maximum points from the games that we should have won. Certainly, games like the Chennaiyin one from which we should have had something to take away if not the 3 points. But Chennaiyin FC did their work and earned the 3 points and those are the margins in the league of which we have to come out on the right side. So, we know we’re capable of winning games and that's what we need to get back to doing. We need to start being more clinical in front of the goal. I think we’ve had the most number of attempts than any other team in the league which tells us how well we are playing and also aspects that we have to focus on moving forward. We need to keep taking those chances, keep putting in the hard work with the spirit that we have and be clinical in front of the goal. If we do that, it’ll serve us really well in the second half of the season.
Any new signings that the club have in mind?
We’re actively looking to bring in someone to help the squad more. But, I try to never get ahead of myself until everything is signed and sealed. For me, the closer you know you are to signing a player, that’s when you know you have the player as a part of your squad. Of course there are players that are of various degrees of interest to us and we are speaking with players on those terms while trying to move things forward quickly but equally the player has to be the right fit into the team as well. But I think it is fair to say that, behind the scenes we are working on that very professionally and intelligently to make sure we get the right player who will help us. If we can conclude the one who we are after, then it would be exciting for everybody but as of now, nothing has come to a conclusion yet.
Squad injury updates ahead of the NorthEast United fixture
We have Komal Thatal who is going to miss out. Mobashir came on in the last fixture and managed to get some minutes on the pitch which was great for us and obviously the achievement that the local lad achieved with the club was really commendable. I thought he looked good on the pitch and was pretty sharp in the game. Pronay Halder is back in the squad as well. There are 1 or 2 niggles and concerns in the squad but I think we have a good squad available for the game but with Komal we’ll wait till the final day to check if he has fully recovered and is in a condition to step up to the pitch.
Thoughts on the opponent ahead of #JFCNEUFC
NorthEast United are a very tough opponent to face as they showed that against Mumbai City FC. Deshorn Brown is someone who I have known from my time in the American leagues and is a great lad who had a tremendous form in his previous game (against Mumbai City) and even prior to that against ATK Mohun Bagan in which they were unlucky to lose, as it ended with 3-2 as the full-time result. So, NorthEast United have come out of 2 tough games and have shown that they can go toe-to-toe with some really good teams in the league. So I am under no illusion about how tough the game would be and they will get our utmost respect. Their Head coach, Khalid Jamil is someone I really like and has done very well with the team and the amazing players have worked hard for him. Even Sahair, who I really like as well and Camara who has come from the African nations, is a very good player for them when he is available to play. Obviously, Hernan at the back who is also a wonderful player as well and a proven champion. So, NorthEast United has always had some young exciting players and we know it is going to be a tough game which we are looking forward to. But equally, we know when we are at our very best, then we can win games and that is what we’ll aim to do.