The Lithuanian forward spoke about his highly-anticipated move to The Furnace, ambitions for the club and Indian football in general.

  • Indian clubs should keep hold of performing foreign strikers
  • Narender Gahlot is a very good player, needs to play more games
  • Aim to become champions of India with Jamshedpur FC

The transfer window ahead of the 2020-21 season has created a huge buzz among the Indian football fraternity. While several new foreigners are readying themselves to step into the Indian Super League, those from the previous campaign will carry a huge weight of expectations too. One such player is Nerijus Valskis.

The Lithuanian ace recently put pen to paper for Jamshedpur FC, thus following in the footsteps of his head coach at Chennaiyin FC, Owen Coyle. Speculation had the move coming for some time, yet it is quite a blow for the Marina Machans. The transfer created a lot of ripples in the market and while the player was welcomed by the fans of his new club, he also faced criticism from many.

In an exclusive chat with Khel Now, Nerijus Valskis revealed his take on the highly-anticipated move to Jamshedpur FC, while also speaking about his ambitions for the club. “They showed a great interest in me. I had a word with the coach, Owen Coyle, about this project. It’s a challenge because they have never been in the top four and that is why I decided to make the move.”

Now, Coyle obviously played a big role in signing his former striker for the Men of Steel. Having sparked a stunning turnaround to Chennaiyin FC’s fortunes last season, the Brit earned applauds from not just fans, but players in the league too. Valskis himself shared the same opinion. “This was the most important factor behind moving to Jamshedpur,” explained the Lithuanian. “He is a good coach, I like to work with him and we understand each other very well. He can bring you to the top.”

ALSO READ: Exclusive: How Owen Coyle plans to grow Indian players at Jamshedpur

Coyle certainly did bring Nerijus Valskis to the top during their time at Chennaiyin FC. The forward didn’t have the perfect of starts to the campaign. He also revealed how the team used to tire during games before the arrival of Coyle. “When he came, he put in high intensity training and small-sided games. Maybe it was very important for us, as we won 1-2 games and started believing. The coach found his first XI and that’s how we managed to reach the top four and all the way to the final.”

 The final of last season was a highly-anticipated game for the Marina Machans against a formidable ATK side. An unprecedented run to the final would have been quite a memorable one for Chennaiyin had they managed to eke out a win. However, their counterparts were always on the front foot and emerged victorious ultimately. Speaking about the game, Valskis recalled how it was disappointing see the result. “I remember this game very well, we had a couple of great chances to score. Also, I hit the crossbar once and I think if I had managed to score it, it would have changed the game.”

“But, it becomes difficult when ATK scores a goal against you. You know they have got very good strikers like (David) Williams and (Roy) Krishna, who can create spaces in attack,” he continued. “We played very well in that game, but sometimes playing well isn’t enough and the result matters. That day, the result went in favour of ATK.”

As the conversation picked up pace, the 2019-20 Golden Boot winner opened up about his thought process before making the switch to Jamshedpur. “Everybody thinks that I moved for money. No, it was not for money,” he asserted.

“We finished the season in March and then there was no contact from Chennaiyin FC management. Before the semi-finals, I had spoken to them and said that I wanted to stay and as far as I knew even Owen was to stay. But, after that everything changed. It was a very difficult time and then I moved to Jamshedpur,” he explained.

Moreover, Valskis also mentioned how players move away after having a good season with a club and that one should look forward rather than look back at such things. Yet, he went on to criticize Indian clubs for repeatedly bringing in new strikers. Citing the example of Ferran Corominas, the player explained how clubs should keep hold of strikers who have performed well previously, rather than replacing them with those who have never played in the country before.

WATCH: All goals by Nerijus Valskis in ISL 2019-20 season

Moving on, the 33-year-old explained how he can add value to his new club, having already stated his aim to help them become champions of India. “I give a lot for my team and can also help the young players improve. I see that we have a lot of good young players at Jamshedpur and the management and the coach are bringing experienced players. So, I think it will be a very good mixed team and we can fight for the top four for sure.”

“Individually, I cannot say that my target is to score 20 or 30 goals, but to help my team win games with goals. Every year you try to improve on your goals. For instance, if you scored 15 last season, then you will look to score 16 or more in the next. But, it is also great even if you score eight goals and manage to win 8-10 games. Sometimes of course, you like to score more goals, but it’s also important that you win more games,” he opined.

Furthermore, Jamshedpur FC are known to possess a good range of talented youngsters. With the Tata Football Academy in place, the club has a pool of starlets, some of whom have already shown the spirit to fight for a spot in the first-team. Picking his favourites from the lot, Nerijus Valskis praised the quality of the young players in the team. “Jamshedpur have one of the best academies in the country and they have very good facilities for youngsters to improve.”

“For me, I remember playing against Narender (Gahlot) and he is a very good player. He is smart, has good quality and needs to play more games. Also, there is this midfielder, Amarjit (Singh Kiyam), who I remember is very good too,” he stated.

Lastly, speaking about the lack of goalscoring touch among Indian strikers, Nerijus Valskis stressed on the importance of game-time. “It’s not easy for Indian players when you get only 20 minutes (of game-time). But, you must find coaches who like to play with two strikers. Then you can put one foreigner and the other Indian, then maybe they can start to improve.”

“India has young players like Rahim (Ali) of Chennaiyin who can seriously improve, but it’s difficult if they don’t play. For example, there are players like Jeje (Lalpekhlua) and (Sunil) Chhetri, who have showed that they can play very good as strikers,” concluded Nerijus Valskis.

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