The FC Goa assistant coach reflected on the reasons behind last season’s poor campaign while also look forward to his first foray in the ISL.
After a miserable season in the Indian Super League (ISL) last time out, FC Goa started their preparation for the new campaign back in April when they appointed one of the most experienced coaches in Indian football in Derrick Pereira as their assistant coach and Head of Youth Development.
Pereira was without a club for almost half of the year before joining Churchill Brothers in the middle of the I-League season. In the event, he managed to elavate the Red Machines from a relegation scrap to a respectable midtable finish. Now, in the midst of a new adventure with the Gaurs the experienced tactician sat down for a candid chat with Khel Now’s Ravish Narvekar. In Part 1 of this exclusive interview, Pereira talks about joining up with FCG and the challenges of assembling a new squad ahead of ISL 4.
For a start, Pereira believes that the spell with the Goan I-league side has helped him to get into the state’s ISL franchise. “The spell at Churchill Brothers has definitely helped me and weighed my case to get me into FC Goa. I was without a club for 6-7 months after departing from DSK Shivajians but then Churchill gave me an opportunity to work again. We also finished in a respectable position from the bottom of the table. Then the offers started flooding in and at the same time FC Goa owner Akshay Tondon came to me and spoke about his plans for the development of Goan football. His ideas, plans and vision made my decision easy,” he commented.
The Goan coach has undertaken a dual role as both assistant coach and Head of Youth Development. He believes that it will be a difficult task for him to look into both departments, once the ISL season starts in November. However, the 55-year-old is ready to take the challenge of handling both aspects.
Pereira has 17 years of experience in Indian football. The Goan coach has previously managed teams like Vasco, Mahindra United, Pune FC, Salgaocar FC and DSK Shivajians and has recently spent half a season with Churchill. However, this is his fiirst foray into the ISL. As such, the former National Football League winner with Mahindra admitted it will be a learning experience for him.
“For me, the ISL will be a new experience working with a foreign coach, foreign professional players. So, for me, it will be good to learn from them and pass on my experience to them. Developing youngsters is not new in the country, but it will be more challenging and even the assistant coach position will be the same as in both positions I will have to work hard to fulfill the objectives and aims of the club. So, I am looking forward to the new experience.”
Pereira is looking forward to working with new head coach Sergio Lobera
Pereira is also understood to have established a good working relationship with new FC Goa boss Sergio Lobera and the Indian coach is looking forward to a fruitful partnership “We have a very good understanding. We had a very good discussion before heading to the draft. He is much younger than me but he has managed at a high level in Europe and even in Mexico. I’ll definitely learn from him and when I told him this he said we will learn from each other. So, both of us will be exchanging our ideas and we will work together as a team. That is what he believes in as he wants the whole system to work as a team. I am looking forward to working under him.”
FC Goa didn’t have a good season last year. Even some of the players they have retained didn’t enjoy the best of seasons but the new assistant coach says that lessons have been learned from last season. “From where I looked, I think last season, the team took too long to settle down. Most of the players took time to get to know each other and that meant the team took time to settle down on the pitch which hampered their performance. They are young and quality players. This year we have more time to work together. They are already in. We are almost done with our signings. So, this time it will be easy for the players to know each other and perform well,” he explained.
Asked whether his role as assistant becomes more important given that it will be Lobera’s first season in Indian football Pereira refuted the notion. “Even for me, it will be my first season in the ISL but we have spoken about our strategies like the style of play and the formation he is going to play. So, I will be guiding him as far as Indian players are concerned. We will be working as a team.”
The former Churchill coach had a key part to play in picking domestic players at the draft. But, the draft is tricky in that you don’t always get the players you want. However, Pereira was satisfied with the players the team picked in the draft. “We did fairly well in the draft. We have got lots of Goan players and we definitely would have gone for more but the draft is very tricky. We worked in different ways before the draft. We had trial drafts and every time we got different players. So, after taking all this into consideration I think we had a good draft,” he asserted.
With just about ₹3 crore spent in the domestic players’ draft, the Gaurs were the lowest spenders and did not utilise the full extent of their budget. When asked to explain their low spending strategy, Pereira said, “We went in for the players we wanted. We wanted some players who were unavailable at that time. So, we had to look for suitable substitutes in those positions. We have picked players who will fit into our system and style of play. The budget was not a consideration,” he elaborated on the team’s policy in the draft.
FC Goa retained Mandar Rao Deasai but could not sign Romeo Fernandes in the draft
Some of the local fans were furious at the club management for not picking up fan favourite Romeo Fernandes in the draft. Pereira explained the stance on the 25-year-old. “Romeo was definitely in our target players’ list, but the coach wants to play a certain style and formation. So, we had our priorities to fill key positions first like full-backs and defensive players because foreign players will take up more of the attacking positions and by the time we thought of his position he was already picked by another team.”
FC Goa have one of the youngest squads in the league. When asked whether the lack of experience is going to be a problem and if they will be looking to redress the imbalance with experienced foreigners he said, “There should always be a balance. We are looking at long term plans so we are focusing more on youngsters. It will be a blend of Indian youngsters and foreign experience. It will also help youngsters to grow better with their experience.”
This season the club have signed lots of Goan youngsters. While it is important to have home-grown talents, it is also pivotal to balance a team with good calibre players from other regions of the country. However, Pereira has full faith in his signings and he believes that this is the first step towards their aim of promoting Goan football.
“If these Goan players were unavailable we would have definitely gone for other players. We had given ratings to the players based on their previous performances. You cannot pick all your players at once, you have to wait for your turn to come and at our turn, these were the best options we had for our positions. Secondly, this is the vision and the aim of our owners to promote Goan players so that in future Goan players can play at the highest level.”