The interim coach of the Yellow Army spoke on the back of his side’s defeat in their final game of the season.
The Tilak Maidan Stadium witnessed Kerala Blasters finishing their Indian Super League season with a loss to the NorthEast United adding to their winless streak. They were already out of the playoffs race and their final outing ended in a disheartening culmination to a rather unsuccessful campaign. Interim head coach Ishfaq Ahmed responded to the media after the match and shared his views after an underwhelming end to his presence as the caretaker of the Yellow Army.
Option of Fringe Experimentation
Ishfaq Ahmad was asked about whether he could have experimented with the team by giving some time to the fringe players. He said, ”Well, true, but, I think all our young players only (featured today). Jeakson (Singh) is young, Rahul (KP) is young, Prasanth is young.”
“I always try to anchor the club’s policy (and it) was that, you know, we will give chance to them and they are the future and we played them; Givson (Singh Moirangthem), he played, Puitea is the future, he is still young. So I tried my best to put them in some way. I cannot change completely, the whole XI and tell them that we want to just (win the game). There is prestige also. So I wanted to have a good match and give them a chance also and I tried my best. We had included 18-year-old goalkeeper also this time (Muheet Shabbir) and had the match gone in a different way I would have put him also,” he added.
Loss of momentum during water breaks
Kerala Blasters seemed to lose character and discipline after the water breaks and were more vulnerable to attacks. The interim head coach was asked about how the side showed a lot of promise in the first half hour and how they lost momentum post the water break. He opined, ”See, this is what exactly (happened all the while), the water break and we conceded a goal immediately. That has been our story the entire season.”
“I am really honest regarding this, not only regarding the water breaks, even when we have been playing good football, all of a sudden, one sudden lack of concentration or not paying attention to small detail and we concede. We were dominating and creating a couple of good chances on set pieces where (Bakary) Kone missed…like a clear goal and then the water break happened, they switched off for a second and we conceded a goal,” added Ishfaq Ahmed.
Words of encouragement at half-time
The tactician was asked about how the players put forward a much better show in the second-half, even though there were no goals to show for. The coach responded by saying, ”When you’re the interim head coach, it is really difficult and (you have) nothing to play for. Then the only thing (to do) was motivating and a little bit (of) fine tuning. The second goal, (unfortunately) we could not do anything. That was a fabulous strike.”
“The first goal was (due to) lack of concentration and the goalkeeper could have done better. But, yes, they were aware of it and they wanted to have a good game. You have to give credit to NorthEast also, they defended really well and deep. I thought that their defensive midfielder (Khassa) Camara was amazing.”
Sandeep Singh’s performance
Ishfaq Ahmed was protective and highly in praise of Sandeep Singh when he was enquired of a comparatively bad performance from the player. He was also asked if the comfort of signing a new contract made the defender less hungry to perform. The coach responded to the question by saying, ”It is nothing like that. Players always want to perform, they always want to impress, especially Sandeep. He gives his 100% not only in matches (but also) in practice matches. We sometimes have to hold him during the trainings.”
“I think he is a wonderful guy and he always gives his 100% or even more. But, this match is a very good learning (experience) for him. I tried him at centre-back also and maybe post this match he will learn a lot. Definitely, we are going to help him with the mistakes he has done and I (still) think he gave his 100%,” he added.
Experience in capacity as the interim head coach
Further, Ishfaq Ahmed was asked about his returns in capacity as the caretaker of the team and how the short experience has helped him personally. To this, he replied, ”This was a really good experience for me. We should thank the Indian Super League because Indian coaches are in the limelight.”
“Khalid (Jamil) is doing fantastic and I feel they are in a good run. They will be one to watch for and might upset big teams during the semi-final also. It is good for all Indian coaches. For me, it is a good learning experience. I will get a lot of positive (returns) from these two matches. Handling the team was a little bit pressure, because I was all alone, no staff, only goalkeeping coach. I had to do everything by myself. But, it is not like win-win, win-draw and loss. I have learned a lot by losing today – how to handle yourself and how to handle the team, especially when the team played better football in the second half. Making some positive changes, they performed well and that is quite encouraging for myself also,” concluded Ishfaq Ahmed.